Buddhist Philosophy

Building Meditation Routine

Building Meditation Routine: Reflection Pauses

Building routine helps us carry our meditation practice throughout our daily life. Family and work are both very important in our lives. But first, we need to know how to take care of ourselves. In this audio excerpt, Phakchok Rinpoche gives us some advice on why it is important to build a meditation routine.

First, he says, we must take some time in the morning to reflect. Evaluate your day. Think about what you must do today: what is the most important thing you need to do?

Make Time for Reflection

Usually, we’re very busy and we get sucked into the system of “doing.” This means we don’t have time to reflect or to evaluate. That’s why it is good to take some time to reflect. And be creative! Whenever we have some “downtime,” we can take advantage of the opportunity. These moments do exist: when we’re commuting to work, waiting for a bus, or standing in line. We have some space.  Building routine in meditation means recognizing and taking advantage of that space.

Now, with these moments of opportunity, we can think, “How do I make my day meaningful?” And we can think about effective steps we can take. In just a few short moments, we are building the routine of re-evaluating our priorities.

Building Meditation Routine

Then, we should also learn to keep a meditation routine. Here, building routine can make a big difference. But we don’t have to stress out about it. Meditation routine can start as something very simple like exercise–or even brushing our teeth!

We don’t need to think of ourselves as religious people. No matter who we are or what we believe, however, we can take a few minutes to focus on our breath. As we do this, we can think about calming our minds. Simply think of resting and clearing our minds a bit. Building routine can involve very tiny steps.

Morning Meditation

In this talk, Rinpoche advises that we take 15-20 minutes in the morning to build a calming meditation routine. The morning is the best time to start this routine. Why emphasize the morning? Because if we start our day by reevaluating, we can begin to build positive routines and break bad habits. Morning meditation brings more lasting happiness than listening to music or watching good movies.

building routine
Sunrise

Yes, those things can bring temporary emotional happiness, but they don’t make permanent changes. Our moods and emotions swing. Our bad habits re-emerge. And then, we’re back to being unhappy, right? So, instead of constantly looking for new things to make us happy, give yourself the real happiness of reflection and meditation.

Bad Habits of Non-satisfaction

Our human minds are very funny, aren’t they? We have this habit of always thinking we should be doing something different. We regret whatever we are not doing and we always fear that we are missing something. All the time, we seem to be looking around not happy with what we are actually doing.

This is a habit, and most of us have really perfected this very bad habit. What does this tell us? Well, we don’t seem to be very happy with what we’re doing. Is this a problem? Rinpoche says we can see that this habit affects our relationships, our families, our work life, and our own happiness.

Reflection Exercise

Reflect on your own habits that Rinpoche mentioned. Do you habitually find something missing or think you should be doing something else?

Take the challenge of building routine for one full month. And allow yourself some time to build a new habit. We need to build slowly.

Carve out 15-20 minutes of time, preferably in the morning. In this brief time, as Rinpoche suggests, simply rest.  Gently focus on your breath, and clear your mind.  If you see yourself wishing or thinking you should be doing something else, then just notice that. Don’t judge, but gently yet firmly think: “not now.” Return to resting. Just keep a light focus on your normal breath and rest.

Then ask yourself at the end of a month, have you experienced any changes? Share any observations in the space below.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.