For those of you who already have an established meditation habit, you might be wondering how to take it to the next level.
I suggest trying to levitate.
OK, just kidding! Seriously, there is unfortunately not one good answer to this question. People who have been meditating for awhile have a number of different approaches they’ve already tried, and varying degrees of consistency and experience. So it’s impossible to come up with one “Advanced Meditation Plan”.
However, I’m going to share several options below … with the caveat that this isn’t a comprehensive list of solutions. If you don’t like any of these options, I encourage you to work with your accountability team to come up with your own ideas.
Option 1: Work on Consistency
If you’ve been meditating for awhile, but not quite every day, then I suggest making it a focus to be more consistent with your meditation habit this month.
- Lower your meditation time. If you normally meditate a few times a week at 30 minutes, or 20, or 15, drop it down by 10 minutes. So if you normally meditate 15 minutes, do 5. If you do 30 normally, drop it to 20. Why? Because it will help you be more consistent to start out small. Once you are doing it every day, you can slowly start to increase the length. It will feel really easy to you, but that’s good.
- Make a commitment. Hold yourself accountable by making a commitment to an accountability group, to friends and family, perhaps to the world. And give them regular updates. Just saying, “I’m going to be consistent this month” doesn’t actually work.
- Enjoy the meditation. Don’t think of it as a chore you need to do every day. Think of it as a treat.
- Make it an absolute rule not to miss 2 days in a row. Try not to miss any days if possible, but if for some reason you miss a day, don’t miss two. Perhaps set a consequence for yourself if you miss 2 days in a row.
So the general idea is to make the consistency of the habit rock solid before worrying about length of the habit.
Option 2: Change Your Focus
If your meditation habit is already very consistent, then what? You could increase your length of meditation, if you’re just doing a few minutes. Or you could increase the quality of meditation, by getting better at focusing. Either of these is a good option.
Another option is to change your focus. For example, if you’ve been focusing on your breath, you might focus on your mind, or your surroundings.
Some ideas for a meditation focus (and you can change each week if you like):
- The breath as it comes into the tip of your nose (as opposed to the breath in general).
- Following the breath as it comes in, goes into your throat and then lungs, and then goes back out. So your attention will move with the breath.
- Widening your attention to your body, then the area around you, then the entire room. Then the world around the room. Then the entire planet.
- Your thoughts … be an observer of your thoughts rather than a participant.
- Your body … do a body scan, very slowly, spending a minute or two on each part of your body. Then try to be aware of all body parts at once.
- Try to hold all of the above in your awareness at once: your entire body, your breath, your thoughts, the room and world around you. Start by focusing on one at a time, then see if you can expand your awareness to hold more than one, and slowly add other elements into your awareness.
- Try a mantra or koan. I actually have not practiced this extensively so I can’t instruct you on it, but there are lots of instructions online.
Option 3: Try a Different Style
There are lots of different styles of meditation … if you’ve been practicing with one or two kinds of meditation, you might try experimenting with a different style or two this month (I’ll assume you can Google these):
- Metta meditation. Develop a kindness toward yourself, feeling compassion for your own suffering. Then a kindness toward other specific people, then toward all people.
- Practice letting go. Find ideals and expectations and desires that you’ve been holding onto, and let them go. Accept reality as it is.
- Insight meditation.
- Zen meditation.
- Transcendental meditation.
- Guided visualization.
- Mantra meditation.
These are just a few ideas … obviously there are many other kinds of meditation. And to be honest, I’ve not tried all these kinds. I’ve mostly focused on the Zen (and metta) meditation style. But if I felt a need to go beyond what I’m practicing now, I’d try one of the others above.