08/08/2014 12:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Practical Tips for Maintaining Your Meditation Flow

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"If you lock your meditation in like a seamless ritual, it will just flow without thought."

Ayurveda teaches that the ideal times to meditate are between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., and between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., because these times of the day are at the lightest part of the morning and evening (the end of vata time: 2-6). This, corresponds to the rising and setting of the sun, which is how many ancient civilizations guided their lives. Ayurveda was developed long before Las Vegas and eBay, long before night shifts, nightclubs, swing shifts, and round-the-clock emergency rooms, long before nocturnal behaviors began to buck the natural circadian rhythms of nature. So this ancient guidance had little knowledge that we would be living in an age where people went out to dinner when it was already dark, and many of us rose long after the sun had come up.

So when is the right time? I used to say to myself, I'll meditate at 10 o'clock every morning. But 10 never comes. You know what it's like. The phone rings. The dog needs attention. You suddenly are greeted with information that requires your care. You spend more time than you thought you would on sending an e-mail, going to a store, or dealing with a challenge. And then it's noon, and you have a lunch meeting. You plan for 3 o'clock but then you get pulled away, so you promise yourself you will meditate as soon as you get home. But a friend calls and asks you out to dinner. And then you go to a movie and then to a club for dancing, and before you know it, it's midnight and you haven't meditated.

If you lock your meditation in like a seamless ritual, it will just flow without thought. We create and maintain behaviors by ritualizing them. The easiest way to lock in your daily meditation practice -- and most important, your morning meditation -- is to ritualize it. Make it part of a series of activities that you do based on each activity flowing from one into the other, rather than what time it is while you're performing them. For example, when you wake up each morning you look at the clock -- then you pee. You don't say to yourself, "It's 6:30; time to pee." That happens as a natural flow of your morning ritual. Then you do the next thing on your invisible list of morning activities and then the next. For most people, they pretty much do the same things in the same order every day.

We create behaviors and maintain behaviors by ritualizing them. You don't know what time you brush your teeth every morning, because you don't do it based on time; you do it based on following some order of rituals you've created over the years. It's only one of your morning ablution rituals. We have between eight and 15 that we deploy in a certain sequence on waking. Sometimes we have a different ritual for the weekends and one for the workweek. They evolve over time, but each of us has this autopilot string of rituals we perform each day like clockwork.
It starts when you wake up; The next thing you do is look at the clock to orient yourself. Then you do one of these 15 activities in the same ritualistic order you always do, and you do them all like a prearranged dance. You wake; you pee; you wash your face; you move your bowels; you shower; you groom yourself by shaving or putting on makeup; you do your hair; you dress; you tend to your cat, dog, bird, or snake; you tend to any children or babies in the house, you interact with your significant or insignificant other; you watch morning TV; you read a newspaper; you go online; you have sex; you make coffee or tea; and you eat or serve some form of breakfast. And each day, you perform these activities in the same ritualistic order, on autopilot, every day for months, years, even decades.

I developed a ritual that has helped thousands effortlessly lock down their practice. It's known as RPM, which stands for rise, pee, meditate. It's based on the fact that you wake up each day. So what time do you wake up?

It's not too big a leap to think that within a few minutes of waking, you're going to pee. Well, you're two-thirds of the way there! If the very next thing you do is sit down to meditate, then within 35 minutes of opening your eyes in the morning, you'll have a half-hour of stillness and silence inside you to greet every moment as you move throughout the rest of your day.