It seems like I’ve been reading about running for about as long as I’ve been reading about Buddhism, and up until about 3 weeks ago I hadn’t had the determination to practice either one. But once I started putting Cool Running’s Couch-to-5k running plan into action, I realized that reading doesn’t matter, only practice matters. The couch-to-5k program has been so inspiring to me (I’ve worked out every day since I began, even doing weights on the off days) that I began to wonder, “Why isn’t there a couch-to-meditation-practice program?
Most meditation instructions range from “just start sitting” (not that helpful) to detailed, complex guided imagery type things. I think almost every type of meditation has its benefits, but I realized none of these instructions provide a plan for building up a solid, active meditation practice. They don’t provide you with the tools and motivation to create the habit of meditation.
This program is designed for people who are curious about meditation but consider themselves too restless, ADD, or just too “active” to sit and meditate. By starting off with very short periods of quiet contemplation, you’ll feel satisfied that you’ve completed each step. Don’t do more than is required for each week. Overdoing it is one of the main reasons new meditators (and runners!) end up quitting. Just stick to the program and you will slowly build up a tolerance for stillness.
What this program is designed to do:
- Get you in the habit of meditation
- Increase the typical restless Westerner’s tolerance for sitting still
- Give you a plan to put into action
What this program is NOT designed to do:
- Insist on a particular type of meditation
- Insist that any particular posture is more “correct” than any other
- Promote a particular Buddhist school of thought (Please choose the path right for you prior to starting the program. Some common examples are counting the breath, goalless shikantaza, vipassana, loving-kindness/metta meditation, Tibetan visualization or tonglen – see the wikipedia entry about meditation for more information)
So, in the spirit of the popular couch-to-5k running program, I present the couch-to-meditation-practice program. This 10-week program will get you into the habit of meditating three times per week, each week increasing your Sunday “long meditation” by a few minutes. By the end of the program, you’ll be meditating for 30 minutes at a time.
- Zafu and zabuton or a pillow/cushion and towel
- Timer (either a watch or a kitchen timer of some kind)
- A quiet spot where you can be undisturbed (either in your home or outdoors in a shady spot)
Routine for each meditation period:
- Dress in comfortable clothing (but not pajamas)
- Arrange yourself on your cushion so that you’re comfortable
- Assume your preferred meditation posture (need help? check out Zen Mountain Monastery’s meditation instructions)
- Start your timer
- Begin your preferred meditation format
The follow chart gives you the 10-week plan for slowly and steadily increasing your meditation times. I’ve chosen Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (with the long meditations on Sundays) but feel free to choose whichever three weekdays fit with your schedule.