The Four Rules of Meditation will answer most of the questions from new meditators most of the time.
1. Take Baby Steps
Take baby steps and expect baby step-like progress. Baby stands up, takes a few steps, falls down, stands up, takes a few more steps. Repeats until walking. The path to learning meditation is a three steps forward and two steps back process. The two steps back are very real. You may drop your practice for a while. You may go through periods of making little or no apparent progress. You may lose faith in the entire enterprise and possibly return to it at some future point. All I can say is that from my personal experience, the experience of many of my students and many people I meet, meditation can be an utterly transformational experience changing our lives for the better. It is worth persevering or returning to so long as you keep in mind these five rules.
2. You’re in control
You’re in control. You choose when to meditate. You choose the meditations that you practice. You can choose how long to meditate for. You can choose to drop your practice temporarily, or permanently, at any point.
Meditation is not a goal-oriented, willpower-based activity.
We are gently becoming familiar with our minds. We are not imposing, or attempting to impose, control of our minds. Some people need to meditate on a regular schedule but most people meditate when it works for them. I personally made the greatest progress in my meditation practice when I was meditating once or twice a fortnight.
3. Fix your roof in the sunshine
Many of us come to meditation because of some sort of crisis. Or we may have read that meditation helps with stress.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about meditation stems from its modern association with stress management.
Beginners can try to use meditation as a stress-management practice.
Meditation is mental training. We train when we can benefit the most from the training.
Schedule in your meditations for those times when you feel the most powerful in any day, week, or month.
4. Do less than you can
Do less than you can. If you can meditate for 25 minutes, meditate for 23. If you can meditate for 10 minutes, meditate for seven. If you can meditate for three minutes, meditate for 2.
This advice is designed to help us overcome one of the most unhelpful human traits of distorted expectations.
This is known as impact bias. Although we are looking for an overall improvement in our practices, the more we need, want, or expect a particular meditation to deliver the desired outcome, the more elusive it will be. This is the same as needing to get to sleep getting in the way of our sleep. The more we need to sleep, the more elusive it becomes. The more we expect from meditation, the less likely we shall achieve it.