Most meditation advice online is purely technical. Authors tell you how to clear your mind for meditation, but they only focus on breathing and mental exercises.
Such articles do not address the crucial issues in your life that relate to meditation and determine whether you can benefit from the practice.
If you don’t first make space and time for meditation, you won’t benefit from specific techniques.
Understanding your motivation is far more powerful and important than any amount of app usage or physical routine. Before you can clear your mind, you must have the ability to clear space for meditation in your life.
Follow these steps to create the peace you’ll need for meditation.
Step 1: Determine Your Motivation
What’s the goal of meditation? Why do you want to meditate? What does it mean to you? Are you the person you want to be?
You’ll need to ruminate on these questions before you begin the actual process of meditation. The act of pondering these questions is also a form of meditation.
Be honest about the answer. If your motivation is vague and uninspired, it’s not worth making time and space in your life to meditate. For example, you shouldn’t meditate because someone nagged you. Meditation should be your decision, something you genuinely want to do.
If you feel like you’re already the person you want to be, you don’t need to meditate. You will still benefit from the practice, but you won’t transform yourself in any meaningful way.
For the majority of us who are not yet the person we want to be—who want to attain some kind of ideal either for themselves or the world—it makes sense to meditate on one’s motivation and purpose. The best meditation is about self-discovery.
Step 2: Make Time for Meditation
There are many people who acknowledge meditation’s health benefits, yet they don’t do it. The common excuse is they “don’t have time.”
In reality they do have time, but they don’t want to make the time for meditation. They prefer to do other things. Often they are concerned that the commitment to meditation might conflict with another activity that is pleasurable or important to them.
When these people do attempt meditation, they sometimes view it simply as an exercise they can “squeeze in” to a busy day. You’ll see them browsing meditation apps during commutes or doing meditation as though it were a workout routine.
If you are able to determine your inner motive for meditation, you should be motivated to meditate. And meditation might look a lot different than what you thought it might be. Rather than use someone else’s cookie-cutter meditation, you might create a meditation of your own that involves journaling, or reading scripture, or doing a gratitude exercise, or remembering what you stand for, who you want to be in the world, and how to make your life happen.
In short, you will need time for yourself— to reflect. This uninterrupted period could be 15 minutes, an hour, a day or more.
See how long it takes you to delve into those existential questions we mentioned earlier.
Your body will send you signals to help understand how much time you need. You’ll feel energized, excited, and happy.
If you don’t feel anything after an hour, you either need more time, or you might not be sufficiently addressing one of these other steps. At this stage a teacher or guide in the form of a person or book can help to open your heart, imagination, creativity and vision for life.
This is a good reason to read and discuss what you read with a like-minded community or good friend.
Step 3: Create an Ideal Environment
Some people are able to meditate anytime and anywhere, and that’s wonderful for them. The more likely case, however, is that you’ll gain much more from establishing a distraction-free place that is specifically for meditation.
This location can be unique to you. It could be your bedroom, a forest, a rooftop, a park, a river — anywhere you feel at peace.
You might find that your preferred meditation space is not ideal for meditation. A bedroom, for example, is great for sleeping. It can be helpful to have a space dedicated solely to meditation. You should do what feels natural, easy—and helpful.
Some kind of small ritual can be helpful in setting up the time and space for your meditation, signaling to the brain a kind of special, sacred encounter in honor of your spiritual self.
In these cases we recommend modifying the space to signify the transition from its primary purpose to meditation.
Ritual will help you to dive more deeply and efficiently into self-exploration. If you light a candle in your bedroom before beginning a session, the flame will help you to gather your mind and intention, reminding you that this is your time and space to meditate, nothing else.
To eliminate disruptions, turn off and unplug all devices. An app is not going to explain who you are or whether you are the person you want to be.
Step 4: Ensure That People in Your Life Are Aligned With Your Goal
Second to devices, people are the most common interrupters of meditation.
To meditate for any lengthy period of time, the people in your life will need to support your goal and know to respect your space during sessions.
Establishing these boundaries can be difficult. Loved ones may worry about being pushed away or neglected. If you succeed, however, the effort will reinforce how serious you are about the endeavor. And ideally, everyone involved will understand that meditation will serve the environment and the relationship as a whole.
The establishment of meditation time and space is about balance. You need enough to feel that meditation is helping you, but even the pursuit of enlightenment is not an excuse to shirk your responsibilities.
The more you practice, the more you’ll see what can be accomplished while respecting your loved ones.
Step 5: Be Open to Being Alone, Without Structure
To transform the ancient art of meditation into a profitable trend, many companies and practitioners began marketing the practice to people who crave structure and enjoy group activities.
Many of these consumers perceived meditation as another method of optimizing their lifestyle and productivity.
By diving headfirst into the social aspect of meditation, these people missed out on the benefit of being alone with their thoughts.
They skipped the individual element of meditation where one can encounter one’s self in an open, honest non-judgemental awareness to see who they are.
Group structure provides comfort and support, but it also introduces social concerns and constraints.
Before you try group options, consider indulging in the self-introspection of meditating alone.
Step 6: Give Yourself Permission to Take It Seriously
We admit that meditation can sound hokey, although we do our best to avoid that problem. Depending on your social circle, you might feel embarrassed about meditating or going to meditation classes.
These feelings are normal and understandable. As we mentioned in step #4, it helps if people in your life are supportive of the goal.
Nonetheless, what matters most is that you take it seriously. If there is a chance of becoming the person you want to be, perhaps overcoming discomfort is an acceptable obstacle.
The Rest Will Come Naturally
No amount of obsession over technique can replace the necessity for self-inquiry.
If you organize your life around knowing who you are and why you are doing the things that you do, you won’t have to worry so much about how to clear your mind for meditation, because your mind will tend to stay focused, energized, and creative quite naturally.
Then you can decide — without pressure or judgment — if mastering certain breathing or mental patterns is what you want to do.
If you answer that question in the affirmative, the practice will come to you easily.