Restarting meditation after a long break can be daunting. You may keep procrastinating, and when you actually try, the mind is restless. You feel frustrated for being back to square one, and you may even blame yourself for not meditating for a while. It’s fine, we’ve all been there. I’ve found the four things below to work for me. Feel free to share any other tips in the Comments section.
Show up every day, even for just two minutes
Procrastination is the biggest enemy when restarting meditation, because it inevitably results in inaction. I’ve found myself many times thinking, “Well, I didn’t feel like meditating in the morning and now my brain is too busy, so I’ll just do it tomorrow.” This is nothing but a cheap excuse, because next time I will tell myself the same thing.
Like with every habit, consistency is the most important thing. Pick a time of the day that works best for you (morning is probably better) and meditate. If you don’t feel like it at the moment, tell yourself that you only need to meditate for two minutes. Two minutes is nothing, right? All you need to do is sit down and close your eyes. Once you do this, two minutes will easily become more.
When you show up, you basically tell yourself: “See? You could do it.”
Link meditation to another activity
The term for two habits linked together is stacked habits. I link meditation to my morning coffee. Like for many people, having a coffee is an effortless daily habit, so I’ve made a deal with myself: “You can’t have coffee unless you meditate first”. Not only I link two habits in one routine, but one of them is now the reward for completing the other.
Of course, life can be unpredictable, and sometimes you may need to skip your meditation and go straight for your coffee. There are two things to remember in that case: 1) Do it with no guilt (you are a human, not a robot), 2) go back to your routine the next day. Resuming your meditation habit after skipping one time is much easier than restarting mediation altogether.
Think of your daily habits as a stacking tower. Nothing will happen today if you remove one block. Remove more, though, and your tower will collapse.
Be patient and remember what meditation is about
Meditation is not about relaxation or clearing your mind, as some people think. It is about observing your mind and body. Relaxation is (sometimes) a by-product of this process. You may become relaxed because you know you are in control. You notice your thoughts and feelings, and you choose not to engage. As long as you do this, you are meditating.
And yes, sometimes your mind will be restless (especially after a long break), and it may feel unpleasant. If you are wondering when it will get better, remember: you still showed up, and you are observing (the chaos in) your mind, so you are already meditating. Meditation is mind training. No matter how uncomfortable it feels at the moment, every minute you spend meditating makes you a better mind athlete.
Consider your diet and sleep
If your long break was because of holidays, it probably means that you had more food than usual. It is what most of us do. This means that our salt, sugar, and fat intake goes through the roof, causing a digestive bottleneck. Since it takes longer to digest (and sometimes we eat again before digestion finishes), we become sluggish and our sleep worsens.
It will be more difficult to meditate if you feel heavy due to overeating, lack of sleep, or both. The first thing I do after the holidays, and before restarting meditation, is resume my normal diet and sleeping as much as I can. I see it as a warm-up for mind training. There is one caveat: it can lead to procrastination. Just do it for a couple of days and then meditate. Even if you don’t feel ready yet, showing up is still preferable to not meditating at all.
Going back to basics
There are other things to consider when meditating, such as posture, time in the day, breathing. You can read eight of them in this post I wrote last year. I hope you are ready to close everything and meditate right now. You can do it. Even two minutes is more than nothing!
You will probably find your own way to do it at the end; whatever works for you is fine. Stick to it and you will start reaping the benefits, like I did after a 40-day meditation streak.