900 Minutes of Meditation (and a request for advice!)

Yogi on Meditation.Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Beni Ishaque Luthor. via Compfight

The conundrum

One habit I’ve been wanting to add into my life is meditation. Recent research in mindfulness meditation indicates that regular practice “increases the brain’s gray in regions closely associated with memory, learning, and emotional regulation” (Greatist). Great stuff right?

I’ve had an ongoing battle with meditating since high school, when I was first introduced to it as a technique for increasing my focus and improving my ability to perform in clutch situations on pommel horse.

In college, I used an iPhone app called Habits and meditated 8 minutes in the morning and evening everyday (90% of the time) for about 6 months. Then I got some major knee surgery, throwing off my schedule and never got back in the groove of things.

The enlightenment

I recently was having a conversation with entrepreneur who is also a dedicated meditator and relayed my frustration for 1) losing this habit I had struggled to maintain for 6 months and 2) not feeling like I was getting much out of the meditation and thus having low motivation to continue my practice.

What he told me that his medication practice is one of the most important things he has in life (strong words!) and that it takes a deeper investment of time to see the returns. The longer the blocks and the more total time spent on cushion the bigger the gains.

The challenge

So I’m dedicating April 2012 to be the month where I log 900 minutes of meditation. Here are the details:

  • 900 total minutes of cushion sitting
  • shooting for 30 minutes a day – 20 mins in the morning, 10 mins at night
  • using guided meditation via the Simply Being meditation app
  • weekly updates on this blog about my progress

The request

So my request to you, dear reader, is to share with me your best piece of actionable advice on building a habit, based on your own experience (or the experience of someone you know well). Please share your comment below – I will repost the best ones in a follow-up blog post on building habits!

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. My best habit building experience has been the ongoing 338 day streak on 750words.com and exercising every morning, which has been so strong a habit that even when my schedule gets thrown off, I always bounce back the next day or week depending on the situation.
    What I’ve found works is to simply set a time or a situation (I exercise every day after brushing my teeth, write the 750 words every day after eating breakfast) and then just … doing it.
    Whenever the trigger arises, you just do the default thing of taking care of your habit, no questions asked. No thought necessary. No decision to be made. It’s just the default, so you do it. Like you brush your teeth every morning because it’s simply what you do, so too you take care of whatever.
    That said, I have been trying to get back into meditation for _years_ and I just can’t seem to do it. Probably a lack of internal incentives.

    •  @swizec That’s pretty in line with how I do things too– I build habits around a daily schedule that I’ve constructed.  I get up, go to bed, go to work, exercise, etc. at the same time every day (I have alarms for things I’ll blow off or drift on).  I take weekends off, but the rest of the time, my day is on rails.  Every aspirational thing that doesn’t have a strong extrinsic motivator happens at the beginning or end of the day where it gets minimally fucked with.  Scheduling your day like this also limits over-ambition.  I only have so much time before or after work, I have to get a decent night’s sleep, I have to kick ass at work, etc.  There are only so many hours to be had, so you have to decide what you’re going to spend your time doing.  “All of the above” isn’t tenable.

  2. Jason,
    In February, I wrote about how I finally began a daily meditation practice that I have maintained faithfully: http://franklinchen.com/blog/2012/02/02/2-new-daily-habits-of-mine-in-a-distracting-world/
    For me, a couple of keys are that I make sure to do it in the morning before other distractions, and I do it with my wife, and we limit the time to something that is clearly manageable (10 minutes) and removes easy excuses to skip it.

  3. @JasonShen Nice blog post. Reminds me I really need to re-start my own meditation practice…

  4. @JasonShen nice post! you should connect with @moraveji and the stanford calming technology lab. meditation / habit building is their thing.

  5. My dad meditates every morning and has done so for the past 25 years. He’s super disciplined and consistent about it.  I don’t think he’s ever missed a day, even when we went on vacation.   I’ll connect you guys; we can all do dinner or something.

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