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4 Tips to Bolster Your Meditation Practice

4 Tips to Bolster Your Meditation Practice


    As knowledge of meditation has grown, more and more people have turned to this ancient spiritual practice as a way to reduce stress, increase their happiness and enhance their concentration.  We now have access to a wide array of meditation guides, in formats ranging from blog posts for beginning meditators to full-length books. However, for many novice meditators, the true challenge is not getting started, but keeping their meditation practice consistent.  Here are four fundamental tips that have helped me cultivate my meditation practice over the years.

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    1.  Set Realistic Goals

    When we are first developing our meditation practice, there can be a temptation to set unreasonable goals.  We may be so entranced by our first few meditation sessions that we want to turbocharge our progress by meditating for extra long sessions and devouring every book on the practice.  In doing so, we risk the potential for a metaphysical burnout.

    Instead, consider starting with small goals, such as sitting for five minutes in the morning, and then work up incrementally.  If you add an extra minute a day, you’ll be up to a half-hour within a month.  Remember that meditation and mindfulness are lifelong practices, so try to refrain from life-changing expectations at the beginning.

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    2.  Reduce the Temptation to Be Critical of  Yourself

    One of the things that many novice meditators, including myself, struggle with at the beginning of their practice is the temptation to become their biggest critic.  Although we  strive to keep a consistent, daily meditation practice, it is inevitable that we will at times fail to sit.  Additionally, we will have meditation sessions where our concentration will be poor and our focus muddled.  We may have to stand up, readjust our positioning our even abandon our session due to some implacable distraction of the mind.

    When these situations occur, it is natural to grow frustrated and to want to castigate oneself for a lack of discipline.  We may feel that we are even reverting to poor practices that we thought we had abandoned in the past. However, if we put too much weight on setbacks, if we place too much emphasis on a momentary lack of discipline, we risk damaging our practice through our own criticism.

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    Remember that setbacks are natural part of a meditation practice, just like they are in life.  Instead of getting down on ourselves, we should use these tough moments to help strengthen our practice by watching and observing–with an detached awareness–the ebb and flow of our distractibility.

    3.  Look for Opportunities to Practice Mindfulness off  The Cushion

    Let’s face it, we’re not going to live our lives on the meditation cushion, nor do we want to.  The goal of meditation is to be able to integrate the skills that we learn on the cushion into our daily lives.  Some of this will come naturally, but often it is beneficial to exert extra mindfulness in certain situations that may be conducive to frustration.

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    Good examples are when sitting in traffic or in a line.  Instead of letting our frustration and impatience get the best of us, we can take note of the fact that we’re in a potentially stressful situation and accept that reality.  Hopefully, alongside that acceptance will be the realization that generating feelings of anger and stress are futile, as getting angry won’t move the line or decrease traffic. Then, we can do some breathing meditation to create a feeling of harmony where a feeling of frustration used to be triggered.  In doing so, we’re slowly rewiring our brain in a positive way.

    4. Find a Sangha

    Sangha is a Pali word meaning “assembly or “company” and typically refers to a group of people who meet to meditate once or twice a week.  I’ve found participating in a sangha to be hugely beneficial to my practice and many others feel the same. A regularly scheduled meditation session helps you carve out time for your practice.  Additionally, a group of fellow meditators can be a great resource for questions that you may have about your practice.

    (Photo credit: In the Lotus via Shutterstock)

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    4 Tips to Bolster Your Meditation Practice

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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