Meditation techniques are essential, but even more essential to meditation is how you think and act in daily life.
If you disturb other people’s minds all day, you will not experience a calm, insightful mind in meditation, no matter what technique you follow.
Why? Because our thoughts and deeds—also known as karma—affect our future experience by creating results that are similar to their causes. Repeated thoughts and actions become patterns that the mind plays over and over, in various ways. For example, if you notice the good in other people instead of criticizing them, not only will you be more likely to notice the good in other people in the future, but your perception that other people are seeing your goodness will also increase.
Because what we wish for other people has everything to do with what we wish for ourselves, the key to all spiritual practice is great compassion: the wish that all beings be free from suffering and its causes.
As stated in the sutra, The Perfect Summary of the Dharma:
If bodhisattvas perfectly realize and hold well a single quality, all the qualities of a Buddha will rest in the palm of their hand. And what is that single quality? It is great compassion.
This great compassion is something to be practiced in daily life toward all the people around us. The The Mountain of Gaya sutra tells us:
The activities of a bodhisattva start with great compassion. And they start in the arena of living beings.
In the Yoga Sutra, Master Patanjali instructs us how to stop obstacles in meditation:
If you wish to stop these obstacles, there is one, and only one, crucial practice for doing so. You must use kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
In addition to cultivating compassion and love towards everyone—not just your tribe or the people you like—there are further practices we can develop that will specifically aid us in meditation.
Create the causes for a calm, peaceful mind
Seems obvious, but we need to respect other people's peace of mind. This means not playing loud music that your neighbors hear through the walls or leaving dishes in the sink to be found by someone else. You get the picture.
But we shouldn't stop with just avoiding disturbing other people. We should actively practice calming other people’s minds. For example, if your wife always gets upset by a particular thing that you do, try to stop doing it.
Calming other people's minds will in turn calm your mind.
Create the causes for a focused mind
We can’t expect to have a focused mind in meditation if, in our daily life, we’re all over the place.
So start to practice focusing on one thing at a time. Know what you want to accomplish, and do it in concentrated, rational steps. Multi-tasking is not only bad for your mind, but it's been proven to be an ineffective way to get things done.
Similarly, support other people’s focus. For example, if your boyfriend is studying for a test, support his focus by not distracting him.
Create the causes for a mind attracted to meaningful things
The more you engage with meaningful things, the more you will be attracted to them. And it's a mind attracted to meaningful things that produces insights that lead to happiness. So try to catch yourself the next time you're mindlessly scrolling through social media, or gossiping, or whatever you tend to do that doesn't exactly elevate your mind.
Expose yourself to meaningful things that push your thinking and open your heart. That exposure will directly feed your meditation—and make you more happy, fulfilled, and engaged with life.