By Elizabete Gomes
My string of pearls is a long one; it has over 1400 pearls. That’s what I call my “uninterrupted” daily meditation practice. I have been stringing these “practice pearls” for over three years, seven months, and counting. It took me a long time to get here. It has been an extraordinary process filled with challenges, amazing learning, beautiful self-discovery, and lots, lots of patience.
What got me “hooked” on meditation was an event that happened almost seventeen years ago. It was spring of 2006, and I was nursing a broken heart, walking around like a zombie, and feeling sorry for myself. If ever there was a bottom in feeling low, I was there. At the worst of it, by a set of events that had started ten years earlier, I met a meditation teacher, who guided and inspired me to completely change how I perceive myself and the whole world.
I didn’t know it then, but this teacher would play a major role in my spiritual journey. The event that shifted everything in my life happened during a guided meditation session with the teacher I had met just two days earlier. By the amazing skill of the teacher, I was able to go deep into meditation, beginner’s luck I guess; during this session I had a vision that completely changed the pain in my heart. It was very immediate and tangible, and the heartache was gone. The center of my chest felt lighter, but not empty; there was an absence of something and the presence of something else, I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. Also, there was a remarkable physical and energetic change. It was very confusing to say the least. The change was so drastic that I didn’t trust it at first. It took me a long time to understand what had happened.
As you can see, my spiritual journey began very sweetly, but it has been anything but smooth. Just to be clear, this sharing is to inspire you to practice meditation and cultivate mindfulness; but I also want to offer insight into the fact that if you are interested in a spiritual path, it is a journey, a process that requires effort, patience, and it’s filled with ups and downs—all of which are nothing compared to the rewards.
My “uninterrupted” meditation practice took a long time to take root. Let’s fast-forward my story to 2019; that’s right thirteen years later I was finally able to pull it off. Having a consistent meditation practice was important to me, yet I couldn’t do it. I would do it daily for weeks or months, then would stop for days or weeks then start again. I was complaining, more like whining, about this to my teacher, who suggested I do a very simple practice for fourteen days and see what happened. And that is when it happened, on May 14, 2019, I started my string of pearls and it has been getting longer and longer each day.
Many of my students and friends express the same frustrations I experienced when trying to keep a consistent practice. People ask what my secret is. I don’t want to disappoint you, but the truth is: there is no secret, only a few “tricks” that helped me, along with lots and lots of patience and commitment to not break the string.
I think it is important you create a practice that works for you. Keep in mind, as you do it day after day, it will change and evolve. It is truly a journey and a self-discovery process, along with frustration at times as well as amazing rewards.
10 Tips for a successful and consistent meditation practice:
- Motivation – visit your motivation every time you start your practice, this helps you keep going, especially at times when you don’t feel like doing it.
- Goal – have a clear goal, determine the desired outcome is for each session. This reminds you why you prioritize spending “quiet” time with your mind and your inner world. It makes this activity part of mental self-care, and your spiritual well- being.
- Meaning – for your practice to endure the test of time, and survive the ups and downs, it needs to be meaningful to you. This might not be clear at first, but with time it becomes clear, and dear to you. This helps to keep the practice fresh.
- Container – besides a conducive place and a comfortable sitting position, create a container in your mind to hold your practice. All activities of meditation happen within the mind, it’s important that you create a familiar space to come to, every time you sit to meditate. Usually the container involves some sort of structure you follow, a beginning, a middle and a conclusion, it can be a ritual or just steps you use to get the mind to engage and focus.
- Simplicity – meditation is hard, so keep it simple, make it meaningful and be deliberate with any changes you make in your practice.
- Expectations – because we glorify meditation as the thing that gets us to a blissful state, we expect to achieve it quickly and every time we practice. The reality is that we go through a lot of unsettled emotions, chaotic thinking before we taste any peaceful state, so it is helpful to take everything and anything that happens within the session as part of the practice. Expect little to achieve a lot.
- Tracking – if you practice randomly, you won’t see the progression of your efforts, even if the progress is just consistency, tracking functions as a reward and as incentive to keep going. Find some way to track you practice. You can keep count on a journal, the way I do, or find something else like an app. Someone I know uses an actual string that she adds beads to every time she meditates. Tracking is a way for you know when you are consistent and when you are not. Every day you have proof of your effort, you feel a fresh resolve to keep going.
- The “minimum” – to help you feel successful, decide on a basic minimum that will count as a session. This way, when life gets on the way and you only have a few minutes, you can still do your meditation, keeping from breaking the “string of pearls” of your practice. Remember, there is no such thing as a failed meditation practice, the only failed practice is the one you don’t do.
- Celebrate – each time you sit in quiet contemplation you are closer to your spiritual goal. It is cause for celebration and also an occasion to rejoice and dedicate its merit to some future result you desire.
- Teacher – last, but not least, a teacher is essential for your success. Meditation is like any other skill, you need to be taught by a qualified teacher, besides learning the theory, you must learn how to properly apply it to your practice. A teacher supports and helps you overcome the challenges, gets you through the rough spots, but most importantly, a teacher will guide you through your journey. There are a lot of qualified teachers on Mind Oasis!
These tips are intended help you understand the many facets of meditation. Keep in mind that the first step is to have a daily practice; next comes acquiring the techniques of the meditation, this is necessary for you to become a skilled meditator; only then you are on your way to the discovery phase, the ultimate place of calmness and deep insights. Along the way there are many obstacles but, in my experience, the effort to make your string of pearls, is worth it. You get to wear this jewel with pride, a precious thing you made yourself, for yourself!
Because such a dramatic change happened for me while I was meditating, I have been on a meditation/spiritual path ever since that spring 2006. I stay on this path not to manifest the vision I had, but to understand it, and to make sense of what actually happened in those few minutes that shifted everything. Now I know that what happened was not the beginning, but in a way the result of forces set forth long before that meditation session. When I practice now, I’m aware that there are energy forces and mental processes creating my future experiences, and that I do have a choice in what these experiences will be.
My wish is that you find your path, that your meditation practice helps you create a reality for yourself, filled with beauty, kindness and happiness.
About Elizabete Gomes: Elizabete brings twenty years of meditation practice and a wide range of real life experiences to her meditation classes. She has deep knowledge, skills, and wisdom. She is known for her loving presence, kindness and gentleness. She is a beloved Mind Oasis Community Meditation teacher and friend! Check out her upcoming workshops and series.