The majority of people fail to make meditation practice stick when they try it for the first time. I don’t blame them, there’s nothing easy about sitting still when you’re an expert at distraction.
Look at it like this:
Meditation is like sports. There are many types of meditations like there are many types of sports. You might be a complete novice or a pro. But you can’t expect to be any good without learning the basics.
Meditation is the same.
You can’t expect to sit down your first time and nail a 20-minute meditation without developing skills first. So before you sit in stillness, learn my pre-meditation techniques to make any meditation stick.
1. Differentiate Awareness vs. Mind
Your mind is fixed, whereas your awareness shifts. Think of your mind as a house with a lot of rooms. Each room is your subconscious. When you take your awareness from one place to another, you’re holding a flashlight and shining a light into that room. When you realize that it’s your awareness that shifts, not your mind, you understand that you can control your awareness. By holding your awareness in one place, or concentrating, you’re able to see clearly into that room in your mind.
To differentiate between your awareness and mind, let’s do this exercise which I also wrote about in Bling.
Close your eyes and think about the last vacation you went on.
- Where did you go?
- What did you wear?
- Who were you with?
- What was the temperature like?
- What did you eat?
Now shift your awareness to the last time you went to someone’s wedding.
- Where was it?
- What was the couple wearing?
- How did you feel?
- Did you dance?
Now bring your awareness back to reading this article.
You’ve just shifted your awareness to three different places in your mind. The bottom line is, your awareness moves with or without your control. Learning to harness it is the foundational skill in meditation.
2. Crank Up Your Concentration
Concentration is your ability to hold your awareness in one place for a prolonged period of time. In other words, you are shining the light in one room for a long time. Concentration brings clarity to what you want in life.
To develop concentration, I recommend creating exercises around existing habits so that you’re not having to introduce anything new in your life, but rather, you’re making use of what’s already happening.
For example, when you wash your hands, concentrate on the water flowing over your fingers. Hold your focus, don’t let your awareness shift to the next thought and if it does, bring it back to the water. Or when you take a bite of food, concentrate on the actual flavors that you’re tasting in your mouth. Put down your phone and focus on the sensations of eating.
Since you wash your hands and eat every day, you’ll find that you can focus more and more every day.
3. Strengthen Your Willpower
If you’re telling yourself, “I get it, but my awareness shifts all the time. How do I stop it?”
You need to develop willpower.
When people say they’ve tried meditation, but they can’t sit and focus, their willpower needs strength.
Willpower is getting yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. You exert willpower to concentrate on the tasks at hand. The habits of productive people — waking up early, working out, or meditating — need tons of willpower. You need to concentrate on achieving your goals and realizing your potential.
If your willpower feels weak, no worries.
Like you go to the gym to exercise, you can workout your willpower too.
Pick one or two times a day to exert willpower on yourself.
For example, make your bed every day like a hotel would make your bed. Make it fancy! Fold the thing over, fluff the pillows, tighten your sheets, have an even fold all the way across, smooth it out. It’s not something you want to do, but that’s the point. Exert your willpower to go the extra mile every day.
4. Observe Yourself
In other words, see where your awareness is shifting. What room in your mind is it going to? What is it doing there? When you can observe your awareness, then you can realize that you are not your thoughts.
To empower self-observation, ask yourself how you are feeling a few times a day. A great place to start is right before bed. At first, your awareness will want to race through your day and various emotions. Let it. Just watch your thoughts and feelings flow in and out of your mind.
5. Conserve Your Energy
When you start a daily meditation, you’ll add a high energy activity even though you’re standing still.
Most people don’t realize meditation requires high energy to create active consciousness. To make sure you’re energized, you need to spend energy wisely and heal energy leaks consciously.
Plugging leaks is the best way to restore your energy for enhanced meditation. Energy leaks through unresolved conflicts, drama, and things. Make it a priority to let shit go and start living a drama-free life.
6. Dedicate a Meditation Space
Dedicating a meditation space is not a skill, but it does require asking yourself a question:
Where will you meditate every day?
If you’re saying, “Well, I can just sit and do it anywhere.”
Trust me, you’ll do it nowhere. A dedicated space solves that problem.
Your space doesn’t need to be bougie, and it doesn’t have to be in your home.
But it needs to be a space you love and sets you up for success.
It could be in your office, in your car, under a freeway — pretty much anywhere where you can sit. Pick a place you know you’ll enjoy and go with it.
7. Learn to Sit Comfortably
Most people think they have to sit in a lotus position to meditate. What they don’t realize is that those images stem from Indian culture, where people didn’t use chairs for sitting.
Even today, Indian people love to sit on the floor. It’s just how they like to sit.
But you don’t have to sit that way.
You can sit in any position during meditation. The most important thing is your comfort. You can’t expect to bust out a full lotus pose and try to meditate when your body is screaming in pain!
You can find a regular chair, ideally one with a straight back and without arms. If you prefer to sit closer to the ground, you can also use yoga blocks and pillows. No matter what you choose, sit up straight with relaxed shoulders. Imagine a string is pulling you up from the top of your head, lengthening your back while you meditate. Place your hands in your lap with your thumbs touching, to stimulate awareness.
If you find your body is tight or stiff while you’re sitting, you can try doing yoga before you meditate. In fact, the real purpose of yoga is to prepare your body and mind for extended stillness.
Yoga was invented for meditation. Not for white chicks to post on Instagram. But I digress…
8. Pencil Meditation In
Your mantra is, “I will get my meditation in.”
Your goal is to meditate every day without letting two days go by without sitting in stillness.
Now the question is, when do you fit it in?
Plan your meditation around your schedule. The ideal time is early morning because you have max energy.
Again, morning is ideal, but don’t let the ideal get in the way of getting it done.
For example, when I meditate, sometimes it’s as early as 5:30 AM, but sometimes it’s after I drop off my kids at school. Other days I meditate during lunch or during a break because I’m groggy. At the very least, I do lying down meditation before bed to fall asleep in the reflection.
Repeat your mantra, “I will get my meditation in.” Stay flexible, do it when you can, and use sleeping meditation as your last resort.
9. Practice Deep Breathing
Meditation requires specific breathwork, called diaphragmatic breathing, to maximize benefits.
You breathe deep into your belly instead of your chest. Let’s do a few rounds together:
- Place your hands on the top of your stomach.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose.
- As you breathe, expand your belly.
- Feel your hands lift as your belly rises.
- Exhale and feel your belly fall.
- Do a few more rounds on your own.
When you learn to use your diaphragm to breathe instead of your chest, you deliver more oxygen to your brain and body. It also calms the nervous system and reduces stress — perfect for meditating.
10. Set a Goal For Your Meditation
Goals help define what you want in life and give you a clear path to your vision. No doubt, you need goals to get you where you want to go.
How can you figure out what goals you need to set?
Ask yourself, “What is one thing I want to improve about myself?”
Remember, it’s about you, not the outside world. It has to be a characteristic, but try to pick one that expands beyond the skills required solely for meditation.
Great meditation goals are:
These are traits you can develop and strengthen in yourself. Of course, you can change your meditation goals. But it’s great to concentrate on one per week so you can exert willpower and cultivate a positive change.
11. Learn to Visualize
You asked yourself, “What kind of goals do I want to accomplish in meditation?
Now how do you go about accomplishing that goal?
Visualization is such a powerful tool, yet it’s not in the traditional curriculum. People have weak visualization muscles because it’s so underrated.
- Go to your phone and Google a maroon image.
- Click on a pic and enlarge it, so it takes up the max space on your screen.
- Look at the image for three seconds.
- Close your eyes and try to recreate the image in your mind’s eye.
- Concentrate hard. Hold the image for as long as you can.
- When the color fades, open your eyes.
- Repeat the process three more times.
You’ll see visualization is pretty damn hard without any practice.
Now imagine trying to visualize your future, your life, your hopes, your dreams, your goals. It’s impossible. If you cannot visualize your life, then someone else will try for you. Trust me, if you outsource your vision, you’ll never feel fulfilled.
You need to develop your mind’s eye. Keep practicing the exercise with different objects and extended periods of time.
Eventually, you’ll apply visualization to meditation. To see yourself developing characteristics in stillness is where the real magic happens.
12. Identify Your Energy
The energy in your body is real and is always moving through your nervous system.
Here’s what our energetic system looks like:
Not only do you have tons of energy moving inside you, but you can also control the energetic movement in your body. At will, you can concentrate and disperse energy to your needs.
Try this: Concentrate your awareness on your fingertips right now. Most likely, you feel them more than when you weren’t prompted. What happened? That’s your awareness going to the energy at your fingertips.
You can also feel the same sensation with a Mr. Miyagi:
- Rub your hands together fast and get them hot.
- Separate your hands a little and try to feel the energy between them.
- Rub your hands again and separate them a little more, like you’re holding a small ball.
- Concentrate on feeling the energy grow between your hands.
- Hold the energy and start to search for similar areas of energy within your body.
The point is, through awareness, you can tune into any part of your body and move the energy.
13. Use a Guided Meditation
Before you go solo, try a guided meditation. A guiding voice will establish hands-on skills and confidence to sit alone.
Too many people try one, bounce, and find they aren’t prepared for the real thing. There’s immense power in repetition, so don’t be afraid to listen to your guided meditation over and over again. Practice with guides for as long as you need them.
Try my guided meditation available for free here.
Download Your Pre-Meditation Worksheet
I’ve summed up all the crucial questions, practices, and steps from this article into a pre-meditation worksheet. For those of you in my inner tribe, it’s already in your inbox. For those of you not in the tribe, check it out here before you start meditating.