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Lions Roar : January 2016
for any preparations or cleanup that are necessary. Remember, start modestly. Meditating for ten minutes every day for a year is more beneficial than meditating an hour a day for three days, then burning out. Again, it can help to let the people close to you know what you are doing, espe- cially if you live together. That way they can support you in your commitment. 3. ROUND UP YOUR SUPPLIES Make sure you have everything you need for your practice in a place where you can find it easily. That way you don’t have to waste your precious time hunting them down. Maintain a meditation nook with an inviting cushion, a small altar, and a supply of incense and matches. If you want to write down your dreams every morning, place a notebook and pen on your bedside table. 4. DO YOUR PRACTICE So you don’t spend your dedicated prac- tice time spacing out or trying to figure out where to get started, it helps to have a plan in place, especially at first. Know what meditation method you intend to practice—for example, breath medita- tion or loving-kindness practice—and stick with one method for at least a week before switching. (If you’re planning on using a guided meditation, download or bookmark the instructions in advance, so you don’t eat up your meditation time surfing the web.) 1. SET YOUR INTENTION Get very clear about what you want to commit to—and even more important, why. Why is it important to you that you sustain a meditation practice—or do tai chi, or paint wildflowers? What part of you does it nourish? Write down your reasons. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be to do it. It’s not just “I want to meditate more.” It’s “I commit to meditating for ten minutes before I wake up the kids for school because it keeps me calm, grounded, and more present for my family.” To make your intention even stronger, share it with someone close to you. However, be careful about talking about it too widely—that can dissipate the energy. 2. ESTABLISH A CUE This is what reminds you to start your practice. The most simple and reliable cue is a specific time. For instance, you decide you will meditate every evening from 9 to 9:30 p.m. It can also be a floating cue: you will do half an hour of yoga right after you finish work, whenever that hap- pens to be. Or you will take ten mind- ful breaths whenever you are about to launch your email program. To ensure that your good intentions don’t get over- run by other plans, carve out the time in advance. Write it into your calendar and don’t schedule anything else dur- ing that period. Be sure to build in time If you’re doing yoga, outline a stan- dard routine you can fall back on, know- ing that if you get inspired, you can always change it once you get going. If you’re doing writing practice, put some prompts in your journal to get you started. 5. REWARD YOURSELF Yes, theoretically the practice is its own reward. But especially when you’re establishing a new pattern, it helps to have an external reward as well. After your dawn meditation, make yourself a cup of green tea and sip it slowly while watching the sun come up. After your evening yoga, watch a silly movie with your kids. After you draw in your art journal, put a gold star sticker on your calendar. Our brains love this kind of positive reinforcement. 6. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS Keeping a record of what you have and haven’t done increases your sense of accountability. Make this part fun! You can go the old-fashioned route by check- ing off boxes on a calendar. Or you can use one of the many new habit-tracking apps that are available. Remember, this is about celebrat- ing your accomplishments, not beat- ing yourself up when you miss a day. Through daily small changes of routine, your whole life can shift over time to a new trajectory. Just remember to enjoy the journey. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 32 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE