I wrote recently about the challenge of turning plans into routines. One of the activities that is the most impactful for me is meditation. I cannot say that I have a perfect meditation routine, but I can absolutely say that when I do do it, it makes me feel great, immediately.
There are a bunch of good tools out there to help build a meditation routine. I have found that guided meditations are the easiest to start with, since they give you a framework and something to react to, but can also be hit-or-miss in terms of fit.
The very first guided meditation that really worked for me was this 6-minute body scan, by my friend Paul Fulton. If you have never meditated and are looking for an easy way to feel it out, this is a great one to start with.
I have also used a bunch of apps to help build the habit. Insight Timer has both a library of guided meditations as well as a very nice tool for building your own meditation timer (complete with punctuating wood blocks, bells, etc). My current go-to is Simple Habit, which has very nicely curated sets of meditations. All the apps in this space try to help you out by visualizing your “streak”, which if I’m honest only kind of works for me.
In terms of building my own routine, what I struggle with the most is finding the right time. If I can manage to do it first thing in the morning, that’s what works the best, in terms of teeing up a good mindset on the day. But I have also found that tucking it in in spare moments (especially with guided meditations under 10 minutes long) also works — for me, often times on trains and planes.
Meditation, like aerobic exercise, is magical in that it is both mental and physical. I walk away feeling calmer, clearer, more focused, and more energized. It is incredible, really. So I am a bit surprised and a bit bummed that I have not yet managed to make it a bedrock of my every day. Working on it.
12 comments on “Building a meditation routine”
I love it too .
I do it right after I wake up every morning and sometimes sneak in a second one late afternoon on the weekends before whatever evening activities we have planned
I use a very basic method. I just sit and breathe with my eyes closed .no apps no guide no timer. I like to listen to whatever ambient noise is around me. The absolute best is the crashing waves of the ocean. Which I get during the summer months I might figure out how to add that to my winter practice out west
But your main point about how awesome it .akes you feel is spot on
for a solo meditation, I like the “hourglass” approach, which is basically what you describe, but split into 3 sections of roughly equal length:
1) wide: just notice and be aware of your thoughts, seeing them come and letting them go
2) narrow: focus on your breathing and sensations in the body
3) wide: bring your awareness to the space around you (sounds, sensations etc)
but yeah, regardless of exactly how, it is just so good
i hear you on the completely unguided deep breathing. i remember reading how number of breaths per minute was important in order to activate the parasympathetic nervous system – which is what you want to do during meditation. I found it hard to know how quickly/slowly was breathing and how long for.
found this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aySV14E2ICo&t=0s&index=53&list=LL29naZj7f9rnTQGS-92-MSg)
– 9 mins long, very simple melody, especially peaceful actually. point is the music guides you very subtlety on length of inhale/exhale etc (inhale whilst notes going up, exhale whilst going down) – so you know you’re hitting the right speeds and also know how long you’ve been going for.
if 5 breaths a minute is too slow, they’re have other ones for 5.5/6 etc.
i’ve found 5 per minute to be perfect.
I’ve had luck with doing a short meditation (2-5 minutes) upon waking. Then I know I have it in for the day. I then add another session later in the day as time allows. What I’ve noticed is that if I do the first morning session, I’ll often do the afternoon session. Howver, if I skip the morning session, I usually forget to do the afternoon one as well. From this I gather that even the short morning session affects my mindset for the day.
wow that’s interesting – makes sense
Two years into it.
Has dramatically impacted my sense of balance and focus. Redefined the ancient idea of Beginners Mind for me.
Mostly a Headspace user but more and more, I do it solo.
Headspace is interesting as a startup and bridging meditation and sports with partnership with Nike, and with nutraceuticals as they are launching their own brand, most likely using the app as the channel.
I spend a week every 4-6 weeks in LA and like Fred meditate at first light on the beach.
beach is so nice. agree that the apps are probably more of an on-ramp for beginners than something real veterans would want/need
My wife meditate’s daily and has since she was very young. Meditation is something she pushes for me to do and has recommended many apps. None seem to keep me hooked.
I’ve attempted to pull meditation into my daily routine but I’ve struggled as I feel endurance running, cycling or swimming is my way of relaxing and clearing my mind. But I am sure I am missing out on many of the benefits of pure meditation.
I do have to admit that since purchasing an Apple Watch, the frequency at which I meditate has doubled but still not nearly a daily practice as of yet.
what is so nice about meditation (compared to, say, exercise) is that you can do it in a very small period of time if you need to. like 5 min
Really good point. ????I really should start pulling meditation into my routine more.
I find for myself I just need to get to the point where I make that mental switch. It’s like turning on a light. But it’s the “turning on a light” part that’s the difficult. I just keep struggling with making that mental switch to frequently meditate for some reason. I really should set aside a bit of time to figure out what the blocker is. ????
have been through calm–>headspace–>10% happier and now on Simple Habit which I think has the best UI and UX by far. Also like having different guides and methods to enjoy.
keep it up!
yep it’s subtle but I like simple habit too
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