How to Get Better at Meditation: 2 Tips & the Science Behind Them

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa, Matthew Immergut, and Jeremy Graves. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Are you disappointed in your meditation routine? How might you get better at meditation and enjoy it more?

If you’re new to meditation, you might feel dispirited at how much time and effort it takes to master it. While it takes time to get a stable routine down, it’ll all be worth it when you start to notice stellar results.

Here’s how to get better at meditation, with tips from The Mind Illuminated.

Tip 1: Schedule Daily Meditation Time

According to the authors, the best way to learn how to get better at meditation is to schedule daily meditation time. When you’re new to meditation, aim for 15-minute sessions. After a week or two, increase this duration by five minutes every few days until you’ve exceeded 45 minutes.

Additionally, the authors recommend scheduling your meditation session at the same time every day—this makes it an automatic habit. By contrast, if you leave the time of your meditation session up to how you’re feeling, you might procrastinate or avoid it altogether. Pick and stick with a time of day when you’re typically alert and calm so that you don’t fall asleep or get distracted by frantic thoughts. Then, once you’ve picked the ideal time to meditate, protect it: Don’t schedule other commitments at that time.

Tip 2: Make Meditation Enjoyable

If you find it hard to maintain a daily meditation routine, you may assume you’re undisciplined and need stricter routines. However, the authors insist that strict discipline will associate meditation with negative feelings, which will make you avoid it.

Instead, see your struggle to maintain a routine as a sign that you need motivation. To boost your motivation, make meditation more enjoyable so you’ll want to meditate daily. One way to do so is to find meditation-related inspiration: Talk to experts, listen to a podcast about meditating, and research the benefits of meditation. Another option is to fixate on feelings of pleasure while meditating. For instance, enjoy the feeling of calmness you experience. You’ll start looking forward to meditating so you can re-experience these pleasures.

The Behavioral Science Behind the Authors’ Tips

The tips the authors share for maintaining a daily meditation routine correspond to aspects of the Fogg Behavior Model, a habit formation theory that behavioral scientist BJ Fogg shares in Tiny Habits. Fogg’s model sheds light on why the tips from the authors of TMI may be effective, and Fogg offers additional insights that may support your meditation routine.

According to the Fogg Behavioral Model, you only engage in a behavior when three conditions are met: 1) You’re motivated to do the behavior, 2) you have the ability to succeed at the behavior, and 3) you’re prompted to succeed. Fogg represents this idea with the formula B = MAP, where B is Behavior, M is Motivation, A is Ability, and P is Prompt. Let’s explore how the authors of TMI address each of these letters in Fogg’s model.

Behavior: Fogg argues that you’re more likely to complete a behavior if it’s specific. The more specific a behavior is, the easier it is to design targeted strategies that support it. When the authors of TMI recommend meditating for 15 to 45 minutes at the same time every day, they’re proposing a specific behavior. Therefore, if you find yourself straying from this specificity with vague goals—such as “meditate as often as possible”—return to the authors’ specific suggestion for timed, scheduled, daily meditation.

Motivation: The authors of TMI address motivation with their recommendation to deemphasize discipline in favor of seeking out motivating pleasure and inspiration. Fogg adds that it’s normal for motivation to fluctuate as you’re building a behavior. Therefore, don’t judge yourself harshly if your motivation wanes—doing so leads to shame, which zaps motivation.

Ability: Fogg offers three strategies for ensuring you’re able to complete a behavior; let’s see how the authors of TMI address these three strategies.

  1. Make the behavior itself easier. The authors of TMI advocate for this when they suggest working up to 45-minute sessions gradually and meditating only when your mind is alert and calm.
  2. Design your environment so the behavior is easier. The authors of TMI insist that you stick with and protect your chosen meditation time. This is a suggestion to design your environment—specifically, the structure of your day.
  3. Improve your abilities. We’ll cover the authors of TMI’s recommendation on how to improve your meditation skills next. You might also improve your abilities by joining a meditation community and meeting with a dharma teacher (a trained meditation teacher) who provides feedback and coaching.
  4. Prompt: The authors of TMI address this last condition by recommending that you always meditate at the same time every day—the time is the prompt that reminds you to meditate. If this isn’t enough of a prompt for you, consider Fogg’s suggestion to design a “context prompt”: something in your environment that reminds you to engage in a behavior. For example, set a daily, recurring alarm that alerts you when it’s time to meditate.
How to Get Better at Meditation: 2 Tips & the Science Behind Them

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Culadasa, Matthew Immergut, and Jeremy Graves's "The Mind Illuminated" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Mind Illuminated summary:

  • That the true goal of meditation is to reach enlightenment
  • The 10 sequential stages you can follow to improve your meditation practice
  • Cultural, historical, and scientific insights about meditation

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *