Commit To Sit: Helpful Hints For Starting A Mindfulness Practice

This article first appeared on ThoughtBrick.com

Buddha

Mindfulness is everywhere in the news these days. It’s all over the place and you can’t seem to attend even the driest of corporate strategy planning sessions without hearing about it.

We all know the value of mindfulness practice. It can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and increase happiness. It can make us more productive, more patient, more at ease.

So why don’t we just sit on our butts and get to it?

I know, I know. We don’t have the time.

But the thing is, a mindfulness practice doesn’t just require time.

Here’s what we really need to get (and keep) our mindfulness practice going.

Commit to Sit

Yes, I know. Commitment is a scary word.

But you’re reading this article, aren’t you?

Mindfulness is important to you. You want to cultivate more of it into your life.

So how do we do this?

As Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Our first step is making the promise to sit. Not just once. Not just twice. But every day.

This may be daunting at first. It may even be a little frightening. But, trust me. You can do it!

So say this with me:

“I promise to make my mindfulness practice a central part of my life. I will stick with it no matter what comes up.”

Set The Motivation

Many times we’re going to want to challenge the promise we’ve made to sticking with our mindfulness practice. We’re going to try to bend the rules.

“I know I promised myself to sit everyday but my mother-in-law is coming for a visit and the kid’s need a ride from school because it’s a half day and I’ve got to get my origami finished…”

Buddha Moon - Buddha Stones

There will always be a thousand reasons to skip “just this once”.

This is where a solid motivation can help.

Why are we working on mindfulness in the first place?

Yes, we sit to bring happiness and serenity into our own lives.

But if we can widen the scope of our purpose to include others, then we have a better chance of sticking with it.

Think about how our mindfulness practice can also benefit our family, friends and neighbors. If we work at it steadily, we will be able to cultivate more patience, kindness and understanding towards everyone we meet.

If we know that we can do even this little bit to bring peace, calm and sanity into the world, then we will be more motivated to sit.

Create the Space

So you’ve decided to start a mindfulness practice. Congratulations! You want to succeed right? The single best way to do this is to do your practice at the same time and in the same place everyday.

The time is up to you. For me, I like to practice early in the morning. It sets the tone for the day and I find that I’m less likely to be distracted as the world gets going.

Once you’ve set the time, create the space.

Keep your cushion or chair in one place. Make an altar if you like. Make it beautiful with reminders of what it is you’re doing in that space. It could be a statue of the Buddha, beautiful flower arrangements, candles or anything at all that changes the space into one that is sacred for you.

If you have a separate room for this, great. If not, a corner of your bedroom or living room will do just fine. The main thing is to have a space set aside to act as an anchor for your practice.

“Patience Padawan”

Once you’ve got a steady mindfulness practice going, don’t forget to treat yourself with patience and respect.

Sometimes your mindfulness practice is going to be great. Sometimes not so great. Don’t expect anything out of it. The results and benefits come over time. Usually it takes many years to see anything even resembling results.

Don’t worry. We worry too much as it is. Just make it a part of your life. Stick with it.

And remember, this is your time to be open, spacious and free.

Integrate

Mindfulness must first be grounded on the cushion (or the chair or whatever spot works best for you). But once we’ve committed, motivated and stuck to it we can then begin to bring mindfulness into our daily lives.

Remind yourself to be mindful while you’re waiting at the stoplight, standing in line at the grocery store or even when listening to a co-worker complain about his workload.

Allow yourself to simply be aware while you’re eating, walking, watching television (or the sunset), jogging, playing or just taking a shower.

Don’t judge. Don’t evaluate Don’t worry. Just be.

I hope these tips help you in keeping your mindfulness practice going.

Experiment. Explore. Play. And if you get good results (or bad), please don’t hesitate to share what you learn!

About Chris Lemig

In 2007 I finally came out to family and friends as being gay. After twenty-three years of drug and alcohol addiction, I got sober, picked up a book on Buddhism then promptly bought a plane ticket to India. The Narrow Way is the story of how all that came to be.
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4 Responses to Commit To Sit: Helpful Hints For Starting A Mindfulness Practice

  1. Jeannette says:

    I used to force myself to get up at 3:00 am as it was the only truly quiet time for the world around me. But then I found myself striving too much for discipline. It also caused more stress than peace. This year after my back surgery I find it hard to sit whether on my cushion or on a chair, so I lay down. It seems to be working. And even if I fall asleep (which can happen on the chair just as easily as laying down), I don’t beat myself up. I just give my body a break and try again later after I’m rested. You’ve taught me to be more gentle on myself. Thank you!

    • Chris Lemig says:

      This is great! Daily practice is hard enough. No need to make turn it into a grueling march through the jungle. Just take it easy, sit every day, then rejoice that you were able to do so!

  2. Helpful tips – I can relate to the “I can skip it today….” I finally made myself commit to every morning. Every morning. If I wait until the end of the day, I always make excuses about being too busy. I’ve also found it helpful to use a meditation app — sometimes just getting the little ‘star’ reward helps motivate me. :) Baby steps!

    • Chris Lemig says:

      Thanks for the tips, Sarah! Yes, it’s baby steps all the way for me, too. We’ve just got to remember that we’re doing ourselves (and others) so much good by taking the time to practice. Good luck with yours and stay in touch!

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