If you start with samatha meditation on ‘buddho’ or any other object it may well be that after a short time you notice that it is quite difficult to keep up the meditation. There are so many other things that require attention, it’s so tempting to do something else.
Here are seven practical tips to help you give yourself a daily meditation gift.
1. Meditate Every Day
If you are a student and you go to school for one day, then seven days not, then again etc., then in no time you will have no idea what the lesson is about. The same applies to meditation.
It’s very important to keep the flywheel in motion through daily meditation, otherwise you’re always trying to connect with the previous session instead of going through a steady mental development.
Once you skip a session it becomes easier to do it again the next time.
Try to develop the attitude to sit down daily and recognize the reasons not to do this as the excuses they usually are.
Don’t fool yourself.
If you don’t feel like it, just sit down anyway. If you don’t have time, probably nonsense, you probably have a few minutes, so just sit down.
Don’t fall into the trap of “not this once”.
We humans benefit a lot from routine. When meditation has become a habit, it helps us get through the ups and downs of the process.
If daily meditation has become as normal as brushing your teeth, then you are on the right track. It doesn’t have to be special, spectacular, relaxing or anything at all.
Just sit down and try, no matter what the result, every day.
2. Same Place, Same Time
It can help if you have a fixed place and a slightly fixed time. A fixed place can be anything, whether it’s a cushion in the corner of the room or a separate building.
The important thing is that it is a place that completely connects you to meditation. As soon as you walk there you know that you are going to give yourself a present, when you sit down it is the umpteenth time that you patiently enter the process in that place with your own qualities and limitations.
In this way you take a first step in the preparation for the meditation.
Of course it is fine if you meditate at a different time every day, but experience shows that a relatively fixed time helps to sharpen a routine.
It is of course great if your personal circumstances allow you to meditate twice a day, in the morning and evening, but don’t feel guilty if that doesn’t work out.
Celebrate the moment when you have been able to give the meditation a permanent place in your busy life, it is a huge gain.
3. Do Not Look at the Clock
When you sit down, you can decide how long you want (or can) sit. If you have been meditating for some time and have no appointments and a lot of time you can choose not to set an alarm clock and follow the natural energy of your consciousness.
In the beginning, however, it is useful to choose a time, for example 15 or 20 minutes.
Don’t aim too high in the beginning.
It is better to start quietly and to extend when it feels good, than to immediately want too much and then to burn out and quit.
Set an alarm clock, make sure (consciously) that the time is running, put the alarm clock away and don’t look at it anymore.
It may very well be that five minutes feel like half an hour, just as half an hour can feel like five minutes. The moment you look at your alarm clock you will only be busy with time and you might as well stop.
If you notice that you have a tendency to look at the alarm clock, that thoughts such as “well, those 20 minutes should be gone by now anyway,” then the exercise is to let this go and return to your meditation object. Over and over again.
Don’t pay attention to it, because then you will only amplify it. As you go through this process several times, it will slowly but surely become easier to let go of time.
In that sense it is no different than letting go of other things. Just return to the meditation object, no matter what is floating inside you.
4. Prepare your Mind
You walked up to your pillow, picked a time and set the alarm. Nice first steps in the preparation.
For some people, however, it helps to take some more distance from their daily worries.
It is then a good habit to bow five times before you start. You then bow before the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, your parents and your teachers. The gratitude you feel can help you realize how precious this moment is.
If you like, you can light a candle or some incense. Maybe you would like to chant some Buddhist verses.
Then close your eyes and give short mettā (loving-friendliness) to yourself and all beings, so your heart will soften and the strong feeling of “I” will diminish somewhat. Open your eyes and look at a Buddha statue if you have one.
The Buddha has already walked the way, now you are going to take steps on the same path.
Give your consciousness as it were to the Buddha. Then you can begin the meditation with a soft and focused heart.
5. Patience, Patience
Of course, you’re very special.
The Buddha needed countless lives to develop the morality, concentration and wisdom necessary to achieve enlightenment.
The meditation masters of the past had to meditate in seclusion in the jungle for years in order to take steps.
But, of course, you can do it in a month.
Concentration is so easy, just breathe a few minutes and it’s quiet enough. And insight is just a kind of sensation, isn’t it? Easy, right? It’s not. Of course not.
Don’t get it wrong, it’s very special that you were born human.
It’s even more extraordinary that you’ve decided to meditate. You shouldn’t mind meditating on that now and then and cherish that thought.
Just don’t think the job is completed that way.
A Western businessman’s approach of “if I’ve meditated for a year, I must have achieved this and this result” just doesn’t blend into the meditation process.
Above all, meditating is a personal process.
You can’t compare with others, you can’t go fast or faster.
You can only patiently make an effort every day, without desire, and let the rest come as it comes.
Maybe your process is steady. Maybe with bumps and bumps. Maybe you’re up against a boring plateau for a long time. Maybe you see beautiful lights or feel very pleasant and refreshed. Attaches no value to it.
It doesn’t matter how it goes.
The trick is to keep going, no matter what. Just try every day again, very patiently, in all kindness to yourself.
6. Investigate your intention
The reason, or intention, with which you start meditating affects the energy you have to spend in the long run. If you don’t manage to sit down every day, it might help to take a look at this.
It often happens that people decide to meditate when they are not doing well, when the shoe squeezes something, for example when they experience a lot of stress.
They start enthusiastically, but as soon as the weather improves they stop. That’s not so strange, because the goal seems to have been achieved.
However, the consciousness is not yet firm at all, not yet permanently balanced. As such, changes in the circumstances will cause stress to simply arise again.
In fact, you are constantly running to catch up.
If the intention shifts to, for example, the intention to develop a rock-solid consciousness that is independent of the circumstances, or to subject the consciousness to thorough research in order to really see where friction occurs, then that energy is different than if it is the intention to relax a bit more.
During the meditation process, the awareness that there is much more deepening possible than you first thought can grow for a very long time, because there is much more deepening possible than you think or think possible.
If you feel this, it is a lasting source of inspiration and energy.
7. Go to Your Teacher
Maybe you think you can go through the meditation process without a teacher.
You read a book or watch a movie on the internet, follow an online course or an app and then do your own thing.
Maybe you can. However, you might also quit in no time because you think you can’t do something you can, or you think you’ve accomplished something you haven’t accomplished.
Our consciousness tends very quickly to compare and arrogance.
Pride essentially means that you have an opinion on yourself, usually in comparison with others, and that you judge. Judging the meditation process, however, is difficult because you always look through the glasses of your own limitations.
Maybe you dwell in a relaxed atmosphere and judge yourself as elevated, maybe you go through hard times and judge yourself as worthless. Chances are that both judgements miss the board completely.
A teacher who has walked the way can help you. A teacher inspires, stimulates and warns. When it comes to buddho meditation, meditating without the guidance of a teacher is actually unfeasible.
The concentration process is simply too subtle and you can experience things that are outside our normal framework.
Guidance doesn’t mean going on a weekly conversation or something like that, but getting support or a push in the right direction when needed. Not via the internet or the annual visit of a foreign guru, but through personal contact, by seeing how things are going with perception and consciousness.
In this time of teachers who show sexual or other misbehaviour, who talk a lot but say little, some scepticism is easy to understand.
A simple guideline is not to look (or judge) for wisdom, but for morality and then for concentration.
Beautiful words and a beautiful smile can be enchanting but are easy to give, a monk’s habit without accompanying behaviour is nothing more than an undeserved garment. Similarly, an Oriental descent with a mysterious look is no guarantee at all.
If words like ‘crazy-wisdom’ fall, get out, because this red flag is a licence to do what you want and absolutely not in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha.
Look at the teacher, if he or she behaves consistently morally, then you can have a little more confidence.
If a teacher behaves morally, look at the practice of concentration (samādhi). If the teacher easily has deep, long-lasting samādhi, then you can be even more confident because samādhi has morality as a prerequisite.
A teacher who can guide you from personal experience during the meditation process, during the development of samādhi (concentration), such a teacher is worthy of trust.
But in the end, you are the captain and always at the helm!
If you have faith, practice the system, see if it works for you, if you are developing samādhi or at least clearly moving in that direction. If so, you know from your own experience that the system and the teacher are good for you. Apparent wisdom is irrelevant.