8 Ways to Develop a Lifestyle That Supports Meditation

By Larry Payne, Georg Feuerstein, Sherri Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Stephan Bodian, LaReine Chabut, Therese Iknoian

How you live affects how you meditate, and how you meditate affects how you live. When your actions don’t jibe with your reasons for meditating — for example, when you’re meditating to reduce stress but your actions intensify conflict — your everyday life may be working at cross-purposes with the time you spend in meditation.

The more you meditate, the more sensitive you become to how some activities support or even enhance your meditation and others disturb or discourage it.

Here are eight guidelines for living in harmony with the spirit of meditation:

  • Be mindful of cause and effect. Notice how your actions — and the feelings and thoughts that accompany them — influence others and your own state of mind. When you flare up in anger or lash out in fear, observe how the ripples can be felt for hours or even days in the responses of others, in your own body, and in your meditation. Do the same with actions that express kindness or compassion.

  • Reflect on impermanence and the preciousness of life. Death is real, say the Tibetans; it can come without warning, and this body, too, will one day be food for worms and other earthly creatures. By reflecting on how rare it is to be a human being at a time when physical comforts are relatively plentiful and the practice of meditation and other methods for reducing stress and relieving suffering are so readily available, you may feel more motivated to take advantage of the opportunities you have.

  • Realize the limitations of worldly success. Check out the people you know who have achieved the worldly success you aspire to. Are they really any happier than you are? Do they have more love in their lives or more peace of mind? Through meditation, you can achieve a level of inner success that’s based on joy and tranquility rather than material gain.

  • Practice nonattachment. The point of nonattachment is not to be indifferent or to disengage from the world, but to notice how attachment to the outcome of your actions affects your meditations and peace of mind. What would it be like to act wholeheartedly, with the best of intentions, and then let go of your struggle to get things to be a certain way?

  • Cultivate patience and perseverance. Whatever you call it — discipline, diligence, perseverance, or just plain stick-to-itiveness — you’ll reap the greatest benefits if you meditate regularly day after day.

  • Simplify your life. The busier and more complicated your life, the more agitated your mind is likely to be when you meditate — and the greater your stress level will be as well. Pay particular attention to all those extra activities you tack on to an already crammed schedule. If you stop running and listen closely, you may hear the voice of your own inner wisdom.

  • Live with honesty and integrity: When you lie, manipulate, and compromise your core values, you may be able to hide from yourself for a time — but only until you reach your meditation cushion. Meditation mirrors you back to you, and what you see may motivate you to actualize more of your positive potential.

  • Face situations with the courage of a warrior. Unlike their battlefield counterparts, meditation “warriors” cultivate the courage to drop their aggression and defensiveness, face their fears, and open their hearts to themselves and others. Easier said than done, but meditation teaches you how, and ultimately, every moment becomes an opportunity to practice.