Set Appropriate Goals for Your Practice
An excerpt from The 7 Essential Elements of a Transformation Mindfulness Practice by Nick Grabovac
Don’t get me wrong…
Learning how to relax and destress after a hectic day is a really good thing.
But I consider relaxation and stress-reduction, nice as they are, as only incidental benefits of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness goes much, much deeper than that.
In this blog post, I want to show you how to go beyond the conventional approach that’s become so popular, and teach you the key things that separate a superficial level of practice from a powerful and transformative one…
Since 2013, I’ve taught over 3000 people how to meditate and develop the skill of mindfulness.
In this article, I’ve distilled my 23 years of meditation experience into 7 Essential Elements that will help you take your practice to the next level.
Here they are…
- Meditate Every Day
- Set Appropriate Goals for your practice
- Apply Balanced Effort during your practice
- Cultivate Awareness of Thoughts to overcome the tendency to get lost in thought during meditation and learn how to work with an unruly mind
- Increase your level of Alertness and learn how to maintain it for the duration of the meditation session
- Develop Receptivity and Equanimity
- Practice Mindfulness in Daily Life
As you scanned down that list, you may have thought to yourself, “No surprises here. That looks pretty obvious. What’s the big deal?”
But the devil is in the details…
And one of the things I’ve appreciated most in my own teachers has been their willingness to reveal those sometimes subtle, but critical, details. To give it to me straight, without all the fluff and obfuscation that tends to surround this stuff.
Set Appropriate Goals for Your Practice
If you want to really maximize the effectiveness of your limited practice time, you need to treat those minutes as precious.
Meditation isn’t the time to work on your todo list, or plan your kid’s birthday party 🙂
You worked hard to make the time to practice, so use it wisely.
To help you do that, I highly recommend you begin your session by resolving to practice diligently.
That means that you commit to following the meditation instructions to the best of your ability, for the entire session, regardless of how its going.
Hold the intention to give the sit everything you’ve got for however long you’ve decided to meditate.
And then set an appropriate goal for your meditation session.
Hold on a sec...
Did I just use the words “goal” and “meditation” in the same sentence?
Yes. It almost sounds sacrilegious, doesn’t it! 🙂
Meditation is supposed to be this goal-less and effortless activity, where you’re not supposed to strive towards achieving anything in particular, right?
You’re supposed to just sit, without expectations, without any attachment to the results.
I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of stuff before.
So, if meditation is supposed to be the antithesis of striving and goal-oriented behaviour, how are you supposed to motivate yourself enough to make the time in your busy schedule and sit down, day after day, and do something with absolutely no expectation of any result?
Well, here’s the secret...
At least, not at first 😉
As with a lot of this stuff, it’s not quite so simple and black and white as it’s usually presented.
At advanced stages of the practice, it’s true, you really do need to abandon even the most subtle forms of wanting to get somewhere.
But until you get there (and believe me, you’ll know if that’s where you are in your practice), setting the right kinds of goals is one of the most important things you can do to take your practice to the next level.
But it can’t be the usual sort of goal setting, where you pick an outcome to shoot for, like...
My goal is to get enlightened by 10:32 pm on Monday, May 25th
That kind of goal just sets you up for misery in meditation!
Instead, you need to use “process-oriented” goals.
These are goals that focus on the process of meditation -- the application and development of the skills involved in the practice.
The idea behind setting a goal or intention for your practice is to get clear on exactly what you’ll be working on during your meditation session, so that you can maximize the effectiveness of it.
So try not to make your goal for your practice something like:
to get to where I was in my last session
to attain some particular state or experience
Doing this is bound to lead to frustration and disappointment and usually results in a very unproductive, strained form of practice.
Instead, focus on skill development.
Focus on developing your ability to apply skillful effort and remain alert, receptive and equanimous (more about the last two in a bit...)
Here’s a few examples:
My focus for this meditation session is to notice the very beginning of the very first physical sensation in my abdominal area at the start of each inhale
During this meditation, my goal is to observe, with as much clarity and equanimity as I can, every physical sensation that arises in association with the breath
My intention is to notice the different layers of conceptual processing that are overlaid on, or follow immediately after, each physical sensation
Notice how these example goals say nothing about the outcome?
These goals are focused on the execution of the skills that cultivate mindfulness.
If you remain focused on learning and applying skills, it not only helps you to develop mindfulness more effectively, it also helps you to avoid the common obsession with outcomes and “getting somewhere”.
The result is that you maximize the effectiveness of your limited practice time.
And your practice is more relaxed because you’re not constantly evaluating your progress against some unrealistic expectations you may have.
Without striving for a particular outcome, you’ll nevertheless experience a progression in your practice and be able to enjoy the fruits of your efforts.
Admin Note: See the full article to see the remainder of the 7 Elements.
The 7 Essential Elements of a Transformation Mindfulness Practice
BY NICK GRABOVAC
Grabovac, Nick. “The 7 Essential Elements.” The 7 Essential Elements of a Transformational Mindfulness Practice, 2016, www.joyfulinsight.com/mindfulness/7-essential-elements.
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Rachel Wixey & Associates
When reading the entirety of the 7 elements, I appreciated the detail of each section in terms of using it to elevate one's practice. Practice can be difficult for me, so I see the benefits and creating a game plan before jumping in.