The most important habit you must develop to progress on this journey is a daily meditation practice. Like any other skill, mastering meditation takes time and effort.
Progressing on the Path
The are only two reasons why some meditation practitioners don’t progress:
The first is lack of proper guidance. This is when a long-time practitioner can’t move past the initial stages of practice. Perhaps they are still struggling with drowsiness or distractions. We’ve got you covered here: I’ve written these resources specifically with this problem in mind.
The second reason is the absence of a daily meditation practice. Just as you couldn’t become a proficient pianist without a regular practice routine, it is unreasonable to expect the full rewards of meditation without daily practice.
Using a Timer
We recommend timing your meditation sits using a countdown timer. A timer allows you to focus on meditating without checking the clock to see how long you’ve been sitting. Most importantly, meditators who don’t time their sits tend to stop meditating when they encounter difficulties, like unpleasant sensations. This means that they never get the opportunity to work though these challenges, and therefore remain vulnerable to them.
Finding the Time to Meditate
It may seem like you can’t spare 10 minutes, or even 5 minutes, to meditate daily, Despite this, I strongly encourage you to give it a try and make it a priority.
Meditation relaxes the mind more reliably than distractions, and also increases efficiency. Meditation will improve your concentration and clarity of mind. On the days you meditate, you will see that you get more things done in less time. Think of meditation as mind training: you are sharpening your mind – our most valuable tool – for the rest of the day. Give it a try, and you’ll see why top-performers meditate, despite their extremely demanding schedules. As the Dalai Lama famously answered when asked how he finds the time to meditate:
On normal days, I meditate for 1 hour in the morning. But on extremely busy days, I meditate for 2 hours in the morning.
Our First Goal
At this stage, our goal is not length, but consistency. While we aim to commit to a daily meditation practice of 20 minutes, this duration can seem too long for beginners. We therefore recommend starting small with a duration of 5 to 10 minutes. However, you must put all your effort into meditating everyday.
The importance of daily meditation cannot be overstated, and it is the hardest step on the path. Once you have established a daily practice, you can then gradually lengthen your meditation sessions up to 20 minutes. Within a few weeks, you should be ready to move on to the Novice stage.