In this blog post, read about the single most prevailing myth that destroys people’s meditation ambitions. Also learn how you can turn meditation from the occasional action into a lifelong natural habit.
Everybody seems to be talking about meditation and mindfulness. So it seems. Not everyone who starts meditating will continue doing it.
How about you? Have you given up on meditating every day?
If you have, you’re not alone. Here’s how it is goes.
The first known meditation practices spans back to 5,000 years ago, at least. Meditation today is no longer purely for monks and mystics. The number of everyday people meditating has tripled since 2012. It is estimated that currently 200-500 million people meditate across the world.
This is not surprising. The explosion in yoga schools and other spiritual disciplines have use the Internet and technology to propagate the numerous benefits of meditation. Of the 100+ scientifically proven benefits of meditation, here are just 5:
- Improved productivity at the workplace
- A marked improvement in emotional resilience
- Reduction on stress and anxiety
- Improvement in personal and professional relationships
- Better immune function and, therefore, overall health
Despite the significant growth in the number of meditators, 80% of the people who start meditating at the beginning of any given year, give up long before the year is out. Why such a high abandonment rate?
The answer is twofold.
People give a wide variety of reasons why they drop meditation. First, most common cause for quitting meditation, however, is also based on the biggest myths: meditation is about creating an empty mind.
Wouldn’t it be just great to sit down into a meditation pose and simply easily glide into a deep altered state of consciousness in seconds?
The mind is empty of thoughts. There are no feelings. No distractions. No mind chatter. Just pure bliss.
But it doesn’t quite work like that. Having an empty mind is extremely rare even amongst the most experienced meditators. People’s misguided expectations often leads to a sense of failure and a drop in self-esteem. Nobody wants those feelings. So they quit.
What is the truth about meditation?
Meditation is not about achieving the perfect bliss state. The process of meditation is far more important than looking out for what you can achieve. There are numerous consequences and outcomes arising from daily meditation. And, what arises is unpredictable.
The goal of meditation is to go beyond your mind and experience your essential nature. Stepping into your authentic Self leads to a sense of inner peace, bliss and joy.
Meditating is like watching a calm, placid lake. Despite the surface level calm, there is probably quite a lot of turbulence and undercurrents below the surface. In time, the calmness on the surface will transmit into the deeper layers of water.
During meditation, you are creating stillness and calm through the multiple layers of mind. Regular practice helps transmit the stillness and calm from the conscious mind and into the subconscious layers of the mind.
Regular meditation helps you practising letting go of unwanted feelings, self-judgment and self-criticism. It takes you into a place of acceptance, compassion and kindness towards yourself and towards others.
This is not easy to achieve with a few doses of meditation every now and again. It takes consistent practice even if you can only afford just 20 minutes a day.
What is the purpose of meditation for you?
Each person will have a different reason to meditate. The most effective way to make meditation easy is to keep your purpose to meditating simple. How about if the purpose of you meditating is to meditate?
Setting up too many expectations about what you will get from your meditation creates unnecessary stress and may slow your development. Yes, your mind will evolve. So will your health and relationships. So why stress about it?!
If there is one word that defines the process of meditation it is “allowing.
- Allow yourself to meditate without having attachments to your thoughts.
- Allow thoughts, feelings and distractions to come and go through your mind.
- Allow yourself to be an observer of your mind’s processes.
Ultimately, meditation is real quality me-time. It trumps any form of escapism and distraction. Your mind is the crowning glory of mammalian evolution. Meditating is the one time you truly nurture and nourish its real power.
Why is it so difficult to meditate daily?
The second reason why it’s so difficult to meditate is all about habits.
In his 1960 bestseller, Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr Maxwell Matz claimed that it took 21 days to form a new habit. The self-help gurus ran with this idea and promoted is as a way to quit smoking, lose weight, increase sales, etc. This idea passed from one professional to another until the myth that it takes 21 or 30 days to form a new habit stuck.
Here’s the problem with this idea. It is false. Dr Matz, a plastic surgeon, would perform surgery on someone’s limb or face. He found that it would take 21 days for patients to mentally adjust to their new situation. This is not a habit. It is a way for people to cope with their new look.
Phillipa Lally of University College London and her team were investigating how long it takes to form a new habit using 96 people over 12 weeks. The findings of the 2009 study at was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. They redefined habit formation.
How long does it take to form a new habit?
The average time it took was 66 days. This was depending on the behaviour, circumstances and the person. The actual number of days to form a new habit varied from 18 days to 254 days. They researchers were able to use their data to extrapolate 254 on the lengthier end of the scale.
How can you make meditation a daily habit easily and comfortably?
If you’ve ever woken and went about your day without brushing your teeth, how did it feel?
Hopefully, it felt gross. You know your meditation is a habit when missing one day leaves you feeling weird! Jokes aside, it becomes a habit when you automatically meditate without being reminded or having to motivate yourself.
Here is a set of recommended guidelines to help you turn meditation into a habit that feels natural, easy and comfortable:
- Make a commitment to yourself to meditate for 66 consecutive days.
- Set aside a reasonable time to meditate. 10-20 minutes is suggested.
- Ideally, pick the same time of day to meditate.
- Minimise changing your environment. In other words, practice in the same room.
- Ensure you are undisturbed during the 20 minutes.
- If possible, journal your progress.
- Give yourself permission to gradually improve your meditation.
How to super-enhance your meditation practice
Whether you are new to meditation or a lifetime practitioner, there is much to be said about having a guide at your side. Quite often during meditation, past emotional issues arise. Issues that have been unresolved. This can be troubling for the practitioner and cause angst.
This is why it is very useful to have a highly experienced mentor to guide you through this phase of your development. Although meditation is a solitary activity, you are not meant to figure it all out by yourself.
If you belong to a community of meditators, you can also bounce ideas off each other relating to your experience. As a result of being surrounded by supporters, you can achieve in month what most people take years or even a lifetime to attain.
The Meditation Social Experiment
Creating a new habit is challenging enough as it is. Having a busy mind and making time to quieten it is certainly tougher for most. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Last year, we carried out a social experiment. We wanted to determine how people can turn meditation into a habit with ease. Over the course of this period, participants meditated for twenty minutes a day using 66 different guided meditations.
Here’s what emerged from this experiment:
- The first 21 days was the toughest to maintain. So much for 21-day habits!
- Practitioners started seeing important benefits from 22-43 days.
- By the time 66 days were over, practitioners were eager to restart the entire programme.
- People meditating for a second round on the programme enjoyed the meditation far more than the first time around.
We had another interesting observation. Those most committed to the challenge never missed a day of practice. The social experiment was carried out on a donation-basis. Whether it be £1 or £100, everyone had a choice of how much they would like to contribute.
Those who contributed little or nothing didn’t even participate despite the reminders. Those who donated the most, enjoyed the most benefits. We concluded that those who were most invested and committed, benefitted the most from the guided meditations.
The 66-Day Meditation Challenge
With this in mind, we have now created “The 66-Day Meditation Challenge“. Your challenge should you wish to accept it, is to take 1.4% of your day out to meditate. For 66 days.
Journaling your progress will enhance your development AND it may help or even inspire others in their own practice. Therefore, besides the priceless benefits you will enjoy from the Challenge, there is an additional benefit. Click here for the full details of The 66-Day Meditation Challenge and how you can start now.