Of course we’d all like our meditation to be perfect, easy, and blissful from the start. But the truth is that we need to build a strong foundation, step by step.
We cheat ourselves when, instead of building an intelligent, solid foundation carefully, we fail to apply the antidotes to the meditation obstacles discussed so far. Remember, they are obstacles that you will definitely face in meditation. And they are obstacles that, if not overcome, will keep you circling around and around instead of getting on the upward trajectory that’s otherwise yours.
1. Learn the antidotes to the meditation problems by heart.
You can—and should—use a week or two of meditations just to impress the antidotes into your mind.
Before your meditation session, review one of the problems and its antidotes (you may want to print them out, so you don’t need to go on your computer before meditating).
Then review the content in meditation. See if the antidote makes sense. Imagine yourself applying the antidote in a way that works for you.
Dedicate one to three meditation sessions to each problem / antidote.
As you learn each antidote, incorporate it into your meditation practice.
2. Keep your meditations short to start.
You want quality over quantity. There is vastly more benefit to a 10-minute focused session, applying antidotes when necessary, then a 60-minute, unfocused, lazy session. In fact, don’t even do that long, lazy session at all. It creates bad habits in and out of meditation.
Be a 10-minute meditation warrior. Add on a minute or two every week—but only if you can stay focused that extra minute.
3. Keep a meditation journal.
Once you’ve learned the meditation problems and their antidotes by heart and you’re doing short, focused sessions, consider keeping a meditation journal. This isn’t 2,000-year-old advice, but personal advice. We did this for years on the advice of one of our teachers and found it incredibly helpful.
Jotting meditation notes can be done in as little as a couple minutes.
After every session, jot down:
• Quality of meditation (if you have learned the levels of meditation, you can write what level your meditation was). Any problems that came up, e.g., "went off object about 5 or 6 times, kept going to the thing I have to do at work."
• Antidotes applied, e.g. "caught myself, labeled it 'worry', and went back to object."
• If time, include any insights about subject matter or technique, e.g. "don't check work email before bed."