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.
I just wanted to take a second to thank you for the amazing resource that Wildmind is. This must have been the zillionth time I’ve arrived on Wildmind, only to ever read and leave. Being a blogger myself, I’m always baffled to hear this from my own readers, but I guess now I understand a bit better. :)
I’ve just subscribed and look forward to seeing you in my inbox. You’ve inspired my own writing and I can only imagine just how many people’s lives you’ve touched through this valuable online resource. Thank you again.
Thank you, Matt. By the way, I love the name of your website: buddhaimonia.com! I wish I’d thought of that!
Thank you. :)
Getting it done in the morning has worked for me too.
I take 40 minutes in the parking lot at the office, Monday to Friday. Sunday I meditate in the church parking lot as my wife attends mass. Saturday is my one dodgy day when I might skip meditation.
I too am often too tired to concentrate well in the evening and while late meditation helps me sleep better, a morning meditation is a good self check-in at the start of the day and it seems to suit me.
Strangely, my sits are usually better in the evening! I’m really not a morning person, apparently. But the benefits of sitting in the morning extend to beyond the meditation itself, so on balance it’s working well.
Hi Bodhipaksa, As ever thank you so much for your courses, newsletter and posts. Even after many years of meditating, I seem to be still learning the discipline of going to bed early so I will find meditation in the morning much easier, more spacious, more awake, more engaged, and then I feel more congruent with living according to my values. There’s still some part of myself that can’t resist occasionally seemingly `stealing time’ at night to read, watch a movie, or just potter. Of course there’s no such thing as stealing time.
I’m still working on that too, Padmavajri! I find it helps if I set a clear intention earlier in the day to be in bed by a certain time and to have the lights out, say, 30 minutes later. Tonight, for example, I plan to be in bed by 10:30 and have the lights out at 11:00. Setting that intention, which I sometimes forget to do, helps me plan, so that I don’t start watching a 50 minute TV show at 10:20 and then find that midnight is fast approaching.
Sometimes it does feel like I steal time. I steal it from “morning Bodhi,” who “evening Bodhi” doesn’t tend to take into account very much.