How To Meditate Daily

The habit of meditation is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever learned.

Amazingly, it’s also one of the most simple habits to do — you can do it anywhere, any time, and it will always have immediate benefits.

How many habits can you say that about?

While many people think of meditation as something you might do with a teacher, in a Zen Center, it can be as simple as paying attention to your breath while sitting in your car or on the train, or while sitting at the coffee shop or in your office, or while walking or showering.

It can take just one or two minutes if you’re busy. There’s no excuse for not doing it, when you simplify the meditation habit.

Why Meditate?

Why create a small daily meditation practice? There are countless reasons, but here are some of my favorite:

  • It relieves stress and helps you to relax.
  • When you practice mindfulness, you can carry it out to everyday life.
  • Mindfulness helps you to savor life, change habits, live simply and slowly, be present in everything you do.
  • Meditation has been shown to have mental benefits, such as improved focus, happiness, memory, self-control, academic performance and more.
  • Some research on meditation has indicated that it may have other health benefits, including improved metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and more.

Actually, some of the best benefits of meditation are hard to define — you begin to understand yourself better, for example, and form a self-awareness level you’ve never had before.

Most simply, sitting for just a few minutes of meditation is an oasis of calm and relaxation that we rarely find in our lives these days. And that, in itself, is enough.

How to Do It Daily

There are lots and lots of ways to meditate. But our concern is not to find a perfect form of meditation — it’s to form the daily habit of meditation. And so our method will b


1. Commit to just 2 minutes a day
. Start simply if you want the habit to stick. You can do it for 5 minutes if you feel good about it, but all you’re committing to is 2 minutes each day.

2. Pick a time and trigger. Not an exact time of day, but a general time, like morning when you wake up, or during your lunch hour. The trigger should be something you already do regularly, like drink your first cup of coffee, brush your teeth, have lunch, or arrive home from work.

3. Find a quiet spot. Sometimes early morning is best, before others in your house might be awake and making lots of noise. Others might find a spot in a park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. It really doesn’t matter where — as long as you can sit without being bothered for a few minutes. A few people walking by your park bench is fine.

4. Sit comfortably. Don’t fuss too much about how you sit, what you wear, what you sit on, etc. I like to sit on a pillow on the floor, with my back leaning against a wall, because I’m very inflexible. Others who can sit cross-legged comfortably might do that instead. Still others can sit on a chair or couch if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. Zen practitioners often use a zafu, a round cushion filled with kapok or buckwheat. Don’t go out and buy one if you don’t already have one. Any cushion or pillow will do, and some people can sit on a bare floor comfortably.

5. Start with just 2 minutes. This is really important. Most people will think they can meditate for 15-30 minutes, and they can. But this is not a test of how strong you are at staying in meditation — we are trying to form a longer-lasting habit. And to do that, we want to start with just a two minutes. You’ll find it easier to start this way, and forming a habit with a small start like this is a method much more likely to succeed. You can expand to 5-7 minutes if you can do it for 7 straight days, then 10 minutes if you can do it for 14 straight days, then 15 minutes if you can stick to it for 21 straight days, and 20 if you can do a full month.

6. Focus on your breath. As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. Sit straight, keep your eyes open but looking at the ground and with a soft focus. If you want to close your eyes, that’s fine. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. If it helps, count one breath in, two breath out, three breath in, four breath out … when you get to 10, start over. If you lose track, start over. If you find your mind wandering (and you will), just pay attention to your mind wandering, then bring it gently back to your breath. Repeat this process for the few minutes you meditate. You won’t be very good at it at first, most likely, but you’ll get better with practice.

And that’s it. It’s a very simple practice, but you want to do it for 2 minutes, every day, after the same trigger each day. Do this for a month and you’ll have a daily meditation habit.

Expanding Your Practice

Sitting and paying attention to your breath is really mindfulness practice. It’s a way to train yourself to focus your attention. Once you’ve practiced a bit while sitting in a quiet space, you can expand your mindfulness practice:

  • When you feel stress, take a minute to pay attention to your breath, and return your mind to the present moment.
  • Try taking a walk, and instead of thinking about things you need to do later, pay attention to your breath, your body’s sensations, the things around you.
  • When you eat, just eat, and focus your attention on the food, on your feelings as you eat, on the sensations.
  • Try a mindful tea ritual, where you focus your attention on your movements as you prepare the tea, on the tea as you smell and taste it, on your breath as you go through the ritual.
  • Wash your dishes and sweep your floor mindfully.

This, of course, is just a start. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including with other people, while you work, and so on.

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15 Rules For Living

I find gray areas very difficult to work with.

I think most people do. If I simply told myself to “eat healthier”, I would probably barely change my diet at all. However, when I give myself black and white rules, I follow them better. The difference is that with black and white rules, you don’t have a thought process to go through – you just act. With gray areas you require yourself to think over every decision, opening the window to excuses.

The following is a sample of the rules I try to follow. It’s not a complete list, and some are recent additions but you should get the idea.

1. When you say you’re going to do something, do it. I believe that without his word, a man is nothing. This rule applies to things I tell others I will do, as well as things I tell myself I’ll do.

2. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, don’t withhold information, don’t mislead. This rule exists mainly because it affects my performance in everyday life. If I know that whatever I do will be related with perfect fidelity to others, I do it better. It also allows me to show proper respect to the people in my life.

3. Show up on time, always. This rule is pretty recent. I’ve decided that when I commit to being somewhere at a particular time, I will always be there at exactly that time. The trick is to just get there five minutes early every single time and wait. It’s a very very minor inconvenience in return for being much more reliable.

4. Work according to your plan and not according to mood. Start and Stop at the appointed time!

5. Walk out of movies, stop reading books. If I’m participating in some sort of entertainment and I realize that it’s not going to be worth the additional time spent, I leave. The fact that I paid $10 and watched half of the movie is irrelevant. The real decision at hand is: how do I want to spend the next hour of my life.

6. Computer is off at midnight. This is a brand new rule and it is a tough one. The only real exception to this would be if by not doing so I would break rule #1 to other people. If I told myself I was going to do something but wouldn’t be able to by shutting off the computer, I consider that to be good punishment for not getting it done earlier.

7. Listen to people. I used to be bad at this and I hate it when people don’t pay attention in conversation. So when I have a conversation with someone, I make sure I’m really listening and not just waiting for my turn to speak. Sounds basic, but I’d say 50% of people don’t do it.

8. Do the right thing, even if it comes at personal cost. I have a very strong set of morals, which aren’t necessarily totally congruent with everyone else’s, but I defend them and keep them strong by living by them as closely as I can. Never do the easier wrong over the harder right. 

9. Work on one thing at a time until finished. I have ADD and this is one of the hardest rules I have to follow. That’s why I reread my rules daily.

10. Whatever happens to you, good and bad, take responsibility for your actions. This is a very important rule, maybe my most important one. If you can’t take responsibility for your actions you are not in touch with reality.

11. When buying things, buy the best or something temporary and disposable. If the purchase is replacing something (and given how minimalist I am, it pretty much always is), it should be smaller and lighter than whatever it replaced. I like high quality items that retain their value well, and I like making my traveling easier. I might sometimes buy something that’s a tiny bit heavier, but overall my backpack has gotten smaller and lighter every year. If it doesn’t make financial sense to buy the best, I invest the smallest amount of money possible in a temporary fix. In other words, I would buy a $9 Casio or a $1000+ Rolex, but never a $100 Seiko.

12. Do things other people aren’t doing. This one is more of a heuristic than a rule, but I include it because it defines so many of my decisions.  When making a choice, I will favor the unknown over the known.

13. Always be learning something. I always have at least one learning project going on at all times. Right now it’s the ins and outs of publishing. Soon I’ll be as good as I want to be and then I will move on to the next project.

14. Never have debt. I would suffer long before having debt. That doesn’t mean I won’t borrow $20 from a friend if I forget my wallet, but I would never finance anything other than a house.

15. Always have a one year buffer of money. This is a new rule for myself.  I will invest my money buffer to grow it, but I wouldn’t spend it on anything other than living expenses, if necessary. I do this not because I’m cautious, but because it gives me the freedom to choose how I spend my time, and thus take risks.

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