Does Meditation take discipline?
When people find out that I have a daily meditation practice, they often will say things like “wow, you must be disciplined!” or, “I could never do that, I don’t have the motivation” . At first, I thought, yay! I am disciplined, isn’t that great. But in truth, it hasn’t nothing to do with discipline. I mean sure, in the beginning when I was trying to develop my meditation practice, there was something similar to discipline involved, and I have to admit I wasn’t very good at it. I would start, sure that this time was the time and I was going to meditate everyday from here on out!! I would do really well for a few days, but then something would get in the way, I would sleep in, or feel too stressed. When I missed a session I felt discouraged, like I had to start all over again. Something like when you break your diet and decide you might as well eat the whole carton of ice cream, wash it down with some chocolate milk and French fries and start again tomorrow. Not to mention, when I did meditate it didn’t really resemble what I thought meditation was supposed to look like, I wasn’t necessarily calm or serene, and empty mind filled with peacefulness, no, my mind was more like an 18 lane freeway with everyone moving 80 miles an hour. No matter which mediation technique I tried (and I tried so many, mindfulness, mantra, guided meditation, loving kindness) I would have brief moments of quit followed by a random stream of thought about what I needed to do for the day, grocery shopping, work duties, deadlines etc… But despite my many perceived failures, I still tried. There was something about practicing that made me feel better and want to try again. Finally, at a retreat at the Chopra Center, Davidjii the meditation instructor explained that my experiences where Completely NORMAL, and that that is how you learn to meditate. Practice… that’s why they call it a mediation practice. He promised that if you tried it for 21 days straight you could develop the habit and it would become like brushing your teeth, automatic. He also suggested that you do it first thing in the morning RPM: rise , pee, meditate.
Sounded good, so I tried it. Sure enough, fast forward many years and I still RPM, well, mine is more like rise, stumble to the bathroom, pee, brush my teeth, splash cold water to wake myself up, do some yoga and then meditate… although I have meditated twice a day for years, I still try and do my first mediation in the morning, that way I don’t end up getting too caught up in my day.
And here is the thing, for the first couple of months, I suppose it did take some discipline or commitment. But now? Well, meditation provides me with the ability to weather any storm with a calm center. I could cite pages of research that have shown the numerous health and wellness benefits of mediation (and I probably will in another blog post) but really it’s the practical benefits in my life that keep me doing it. I need less sleep, I am happier, healthier, and more present with my children, family and friends. Meditation is restorative and my body craves it when I miss a session. It is like eating, or sleeping, it feels so good when you need it.
So I ask myself, does it take discipline to eat a delicious meal? Does it take discipline to get a luxurious nights sleep when I am tired? No, right? And for me, and most meditators that I know with a daily practice, it doesn’t take discipline, the rewards ARE the motivation.
So how do you get started? Make a commitment to 21 days of life changing practice building and see what rewards it might bring you.