Meditation: Establish a Habit

Sally Kempton

According to Sally Kempton, acclaimed meditation teacher and author, who has taught meditation and yoga philosophy for more than 40 years, it’s helpful for beginners to establish conditions for a meditation practice that will remain basically constant—the same time, the same cushion, the same quiet corner.

Our minds and bodies have natural rhythms, and they respond positively to meditating at the same time every day and to visual and sensory cues like cushions, clothing, candles, and spaces dedicated to meditation, she says. Indeed, neuroscientists believe that we form habits by way of a three-step “habit loop”: The brain prompts you to perform an act in response to a cue, you do the activity, and you find it rewarding, thus strengthening the loop and making you eager to do it again.

When you create the conditions for your meditation practice, you’re not only setting up signals that tell your mind and body it’s time to turn inward, but you are making it that much more likely that you’ll sit down in the first place.

Of course, real life—in the form of work, significant others, and kids, to say nothing of laundry and dirty dishes—can make such constancy impossible. But don’t let the fact that you don’t have a quiet corner (or even a dedicated cushion) deter you. “Don’t get stuck on the idea that you must meditate at a certain time, or in certain clothes,” says Kempton, who has meditated on park benches, in buses, on airplanes, and even in a parked car.

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