Life gives us plenty of firsts.
The first day of spring.
January 1 when a new year begins.
Heck, we even get to start anew every week when Monday rolls around.
One nice way to use a specific “first” is to pay attention to the first day of the month.
When you’re writing a check for your rent or the mortgage (or, okay, doing it online as is typically these days) then that’s a great moment to also bring to mind your meditation practice.
This isn’t about beating yourself up if you’ve let it slide for the last few weeks or even if you’ve not been meditating regularly for months at a time.
Instead, it’s an opportunity. Here we are, turning the page of a calendar, and it’s a fresh moment. It’s a clean slate.
It’s nice to be intentional about using these moments. Make a point of always meditating, no matter what, on the first day of a new month.
And set your intent, to make every day in that month to follow the same template of practice.
It’s not important to always meditate in the morning. If evenings work better for you, then fine. There’s an advantage to doing it in the morning, since most people’s mornings are much more standardized and consistent than their evenings tend to be. There are more routines and habits etched in the stone of your life in the morningtime. If you can make meditation as consistent and regular as brushing your teeth, you’ll be on your way to a fully integrated practice.
If you’ve been very consistent over the last month and you’ve meditated more days than not, or especially if – congratulations! – you’ve meditated without fail every day, then the turn of time into a new month might be a nice opportunity to commit to lengthening your practice. If you’ve been doing ten minutes a day (which is totally enough to get started) then consider upping to 15 now. If you’ve been doing half an hour of consistent meditation every morning, make it 40 minutes.
Don’t go overboard; it’s better to increase the time gradually. It’s kind of like working out: If you get too enthusiastic and do too much at once it can backfire and make it harder to continue. The key is to take on what you’re ready for.
Longer meditations are definitely worthwhile, but work up to them. Being very consistent and stable in a daily 15-minute practice is way (way!) better than a here-and-there practice of 45 minutes that you’re doing only irregularly. Go for quality first, not quantity. If you try for a 45-minute meditation when you’ve only been training at the 20-minute level, then more likely than not, what will happen is 20 minutes of drifting and grogginess, not meditation. You don’t want it to be an opportunity to space out. Make it focused and consistent and then build when that part is steady.
Another trick to using the calendar is to literally do so: When you meditate, mark it down. Use a gold star on a calendar posted to the fridge in the kitchen, or keep track of your meditations electronically. See how many days in a row you can build out in a chain — and then don’t break the chain! Use that to keep yourself motivated and on track.
Life gives us chances for new beginnings all over the place. Pay attention to these moments and the passage of time and it’ll also help support you in your practice of staying present. In order to notice how much time has passed, you need to be hyperconscious of where you’re at NOW. Don’t get depressed about it; just acknowledge.
Where are you at NOW?
What will you do NOW to honor it?
Today is the first of the month. What a great day to meditate!