Sustaining a Meditation Practice

It’s often difficult for us to create new habits in the midst of our super busy lives, even if it’s good for us! It’s not as if we can just dig in and create a new routine.

On Creating a New Meditation Routine
1) Make sure you have people around you who will support new changes and behaviors.
2) Know that It’s easier when you have a community of like-minded people and real connection with others.
3) Try to create cues in your environment that supports these new types of behaviors that we want for ourselves. People are the best cues we can possibly get. In other words, I always say to people, "If you're standing in the middle of a circle and everyone around you cares about you and understands you and is supporting you to do the things that you want to do in this world, how does that make you feel?" A lot of people say, "I feel safe. I feel accepted. I feel more motivated to do these types of things."

On Creating a New Mindset
All this new science that's come out in the past fifteen years is saying that meditation changes your brain for the better and it leads to reducing your blood pressure and a variety of different ways of feeling healthy, reduction and relapse prevention for depression, anxiety, stress. People want to meditate, but it’s a whole lot easier when you’re in a community of people who share your interest in meditation.

I always encourage people to explore a ‘growth’ mindset vs. a ‘fixed’ mindset when learning something new.  A ‘growth’ mindset is a learning mindset…one that allows us to try new things, learn from mistakes and live with a little more optimism that it’s possible to grown and learn and thrive. A ‘fixed’ mindset is usually associated with people who see obstacles right away and feel they ‘can’t get it right’ and just get stuck.

On Training Your Mind to Be Open
As Dogen Zenji said, "In the beginner's mind, the possibilities are endless, and in the expert's mind, the possibilities are few." We first have to break open our mind to be open to trying new things, and that's adopting a beginner's mind. In order to make really big transformative changes, we need that and we need a bit of grit. There's going to be obstacles along our path, whether it's our own minds that are our obstacles telling us we can't do something or something's too hard, or whether it's something actually physical that happens that gets in our way.

On The Role of GRIT
Grit says that, "I understand that some things are going to be hard, and I also know that I'm in this for the long haul and that I'm going to move through these difficulties, and there's different ways to move through them." There's a way that a lot of people do, which is they grit their teeth to get through it, which is not the kind of grit I'm talking about. There's a way of bringing a bit more self-compassion into the process, seeing the whole journey of how there's going to be ups and downs to it, and when there's downs and fear is there or discomfort is there, difficulty is there, I can name that. That's that moment of mindfulness. When I name it, I get a little bit of space from it.

On Knowing That There will Be Difficult Moments
Everyone has difficult moments when they're trying to make the big changes in their lives. It's just a part of being human. There's a common humanity to it. What do I need right now in order to support myself in moving through this? That type of self-compassion practice builds into having grit and continuity of practice is a recipe for setting yourself up for success, for making big transformative changes.

On Creating Stability in Difficult Times
There are only a couple things we can really do in life to set ourselves up for these times. The main thing is really preparing. The learning aspect is this aspect of preparing for those difficult moments. . When we're having a difficult moment in time, we're more likely to access those memories of stability that we've been practicing. As an example, whether that's settling into your body with, let's say, a mountain meditation, like we have on meditation studio, and practicing that regularly so you really have a sense in your body of this stability. During a difficult moment, if you're practicing something like that regularly, you're more likely to access it even during that time of grief and come into your body

The body's the first place that I always tell people to go to, as far as creating stability, because what you're doing is as you're sensing in your body, and there's plenty of science that backs this up, you're creating a neuro-shift in your brain that's moving from the mind that's thinking and self-referencing all the time to the part that's accessing your body and your emotions. You're turning the volume down in your thinking and coming to be with what's here.

Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite teachers said, "Peace in oneself, peace in the world." It starts with us. What I know is that when we do create more sense of ease and peace and grounding within ourselves individually, there's a reality around emotional contagion, which means that the emotions that we cultivate within ourselves, the sense that we cultivate in ourselves, seem to have ripple effects.


 
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ELISHA GOLDSTEIN

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is cofounder of The Center for Mindful Living in West Los Angeles. He is a psychologist, author, and speaker who synthesizes the pearls of traditional psychotherapy with a progressive integration of mindfulness to achieve mental and emotional healing, offering practical strategies to calm our anxious minds, transform negative emotions, and facilitate inner peace.