By way of background, despite having been a meditation teacher for years, I used to have difficulty maintaining a daily meditation practice. I’d meditate daily for weeks or months, but then miss days here and there. For the last few years, though, I’ve been more of a rock-solid daily meditator.
Still, although I’ve meditated virtually every day for the last three years, my practice can still be a bit thin at times. This is because I’d gotten into the habit of meditating in the evening. Why? In one word, kids. Having two young kids does not make it easy to meditate in the mornings. My personal time shifted to the evenings, when I could reliably assume that my children would be sleeping. Mornings were, on the other hand, more unpredictable. For a while my daughter would wake up at 4:00AM quite regularly!
Once a habit has established itself, I find I sometimes don’t even question it. Although I’m now divorced and don’t have the children at my house most mornings, I kept sitting later in the day — sometimes in the morning or the afternoon, but most often in the evening. And sometimes, because I’m a night-owl, those sits would be really late, and because I was tired they’d be short.
But then I realized that since meditation is central to my life, perhaps it should be the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning, and the first thing I do? What’s normally my first thought? Email! When I wake up I usually pick up my phone to see what time it is, and then see all the email notifications, and then get sucked into dealing with work. If I’m honest with myself, it’s work that’s been most central to my life, and not meditation. And even though my work involves meditation, that’s not good.
So, apart from the weekends when I have the kids, and the occasional weird day (like the one recently when I had to be out of the house shortly after 6:00AM) meditating has been close to the first thing on my mind when I wake up, and it’s been the first thing I’ve done. Usually I sit on my bed, either cross-legged, which I’m experimenting with, or on my Kindseat meditation bench.
This has been very good for me, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, I’m becoming less of a night owl! I’ve often felt naturally very tired in the evenings and I’ve been going to bed early. This means I’ve been waking up early too, and sitting before dawn.
The other big benefit is the loss of the anxiety that surrounds having to remember to meditate. I’ve realized that meditating in the evening means that all day there’s this sense at the back of my mind that there’s something I need to remember to do. As soon as I’ve finished sitting in the morning, I feel a sense of relief: OK. That’s one less thing I have to remember.
I don’t think meditating should be something I have to remember to do. It should be something I just do.
After all, I meditate every day. It’s just what I do. It’s part of who I am.