By Jeannine Cahill-Jackson 

“I want to meditate but…” 

“I’ll meditate today, but first I have to…”

Do these phrases sound familiar? I know they do to me. As we lead our busy lives, our meditation practice can often make its way off our our daily to do list and onto our wish list, filled with things we plan to do some day when we have the time. Each day that we skip meditation, it can become more challenging to restart our practice. It can feel like needing to dust off a rusty old bicycle that once moved you with ease down the path. Let’s try to figure out together how can we make this goal of daily practice a reality.

So, What’s the Problem?

It can be tricky to figure out what the barriers are and how to overcome them. An ideal meditation practice is daily and at the same time each day. Consistent practice, daily, without gaps is necessary to make progress in your meditation practice and thereby your spiritual development. Personally, I come up against this issue again and again, as I start and then have to restart my efforts to practice daily.

Somehow, I manage to hold down a very busy job, volunteer 20+ hours a week for my dharma center, teach several classes a week of yoga, dharma and meditation, yet, it somehow escapes my scheduling acumen to be able to consistently allot time each day for my meditation practice. I sometimes feel stumped. Yet, I keep trying. So why is it I can’t just sit on my cushion daily? Through my studies, I realized it is more than a scheduling issue. It is a step on my spiritual path that I need to work through.  

The Root of the Challenge

Tibetan Buddhism calls this concept LE-LO (lay-low), which translates to: not wanting to meditate. In the lam rim text, Liberation in Your Hands, Pabongka Rinpoche explains that LE-LO is the threshold problem that practitioners have when it comes to their meditation practice. If you can’t get to your cushion, you will never start your meditation.

As I contemplated this, I realized this was the root of the challenge I was facing. It is an issue that practitioners have grappled with for thousands of years. I feel like with this teaching, Pabongka Rinpoche is welcoming us to the long line of masters that also had to grapple with this issue at the beginning of their practice.  It’s honestly kind of a relief, and helps assuage my sense of failure when I call this to mind.  I am so grateful for those that practiced and studied before us, who had the compassion to write down the methods they learned to overcome this obstacle to meditation, so that we can have this guidance. 

The Four Antidotes to this Problem of LE-LO: 

  1. Think of the benefits of meditation 
  2. Decide that you want to experience those benefits 
  3. Make an effort to practice  
  4. Practiced Ease (your meditation starts to feel mentally and physically pleasant because you have become so good at it) 

The first three antidotes work together to lead to the fourth.

How to Apply the Antidotes

To use this list to try and overcome our hurdle, we can first think of why it is we are seeking to have this practice in the first place. What are its benefits? Be honest with yourself and find ones that connect to your heart. This leads to step 2, deciding that you want those benefits you just thought of. This is where it becomes important that these are truly reasons that resonate with you, ones that you find inspiring. With this desire to achieve these benefits active in our hearts and minds, we will be primed for step three, to make an effort to practice. I recommend you try this each morning as you are getting out of bed to psych yourself up for your morning meditation, right before you hit the snooze button. This can help build a habit not only of doing your practice but of having this motivation and inspiration around it, making it a treasured part of your day and not a chore.

Not every day will be perfect. Our motivation will wane and things will come up, but this practice can help support us in maintaining an inspired connection and friendship with this daily practice and help guide us away from a sense of dispassionate obligation that we can easily fall into with our daily tasks.

Good luck and happy meditating! 

To help get you started on your daily practice, we suggest choosing a Community Meditation session that works with your schedule. Put it in your calendar, and commit to showing up! The power of meditating with a group just may keep you coming back again and again. You can find Jeannine guiding sessions on Mondays at 8pm CT.