Those who are just starting out with meditation often try to create a daily meditation practice. People regularly ask me to talk about starting a daily practice in a similar tone to how people talk about losing weight or stopping smoking. The conversation sounds like there is some habit that needs to be overcome or acquired.

Maybe I'm not the best person to ask about this, because besides going to the bathroom and breathing, there isn't really anything I can think of that I do every single day. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure about going to the bathroom, either.

Creating a daily meditation practice can seem challenging in the world we live in. It is clear that finding ways to let go of stress and relax is a good idea, and we have heard that if we meditate, we can do that. But trying to steal away that twenty or thirty or sixty minutes to sit can sometimes end up being more stress-producing than the peace we are supposed to find in meditation.

Many teachers give similar suggestions about how to create our daily practice: do it at the same time each day, and it will become a habit. Or start your day with meditation, before doing anything else in the morning. Or find a special place in your home for meditating, so that when you see that place, it reminds you to practice.

For me, whenever there was a space for meditation in my home, all that happened was that I remembered that I wasn't sitting as much as I was supposed to. Also, my schedule was too variable to follow the suggestion to meditate at the same time every day. And in my life, there are too many things that need to happen first thing in the morning, long before I can even think of sitting down to meditate.

This discussion about creating a daily meditation practice reminds me of something that happened on a long meditation course I did some 20 years back.

One afternoon, the teacher was aware that all of us were really struggling with the practice. We were trying so hard just to relax. Sure, it sounds obvious and paradoxical now, but then, working hard to relax seemed to be the thing to do.

Our teacher, a grandmother from Burma named Sayama, told us something that changed forever how I think about daily meditation practice. She said to us, "You can't force peacefulness. However, you can notice the place where you already have some calm, some equanimity, some peace of mind… and then let your meditation support and encourage that…gently."

Attempting to change your life dramatically, whether through losing weight or meditating, doesn't usually have a gentle quality based in some calmness you already have.

One common meditation goal is to develop self-reliance, to learn how to trust yourself and the inner knowing we all have. But I don’t think you need years of practice to find this goal. This is something that meditation beginners can explore, too. A good place to begin is to spend a few minutes inquiring how you might find a few minutes, or even just a breath or two, where you can gently encourage some existing peace of mind or calmness.

I've heard people say that they don't have any calm times during their day. This is just not true. Our difficulties and distresses – you know, the ones we hope to get rid of with daily meditation - are sort of like all the items on a messy table. Rearranging the mess doesn't actually eliminate any of it. Try, instead, to place your attention on the table itself. Focus on the background that is always there under the mess, on that which is always present behind our difficult experiences. That table is always fine, no matter what is sitting on top of it.

Here’s another metaphor to contemplate: our minds are like a sky with clouds in it. As the clouds pass through the sky, the sky is completely untouched by how many clouds there are or what size or shape they may be.

You can experience this "foundation layer," that is, the background sky or table quality of the mind, at any moment. This aspect of the mind is stable and calm already, simply accepting that which arises within it. You can tap into this layer in as much time as it takes to breathe in and out. That’s all that’s necessary to gently encourage the always available peace of mind. It’s a meditation that anyone can do every day.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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