The One Thing You Can Do to Make Meditation a Habit

Mindfulness is growing rapidly, but there's one thing missing from the conversation that helps make meditation stick, Ed Halliwell writes.

Photograph by Joshua Simpson from "How to Choose a Meditation Instructor" from the October 2014 issue of Mindful magazine

While the march of mindfulness into the mainstream seems to show no sign of slowing, I’m struck more and more how an aspect of the approach—long-considered to be crucial—doesn’t get mentioned very much these days. In an individualistic culture, maybe it’s little surprise that mindfulness tends to be portrayed as a solo practice, one that occurs when a person pays attention, with their whole mind and body, cultivating attitudes such as curiosity and gentleness. I’ve no doubt that practising mindfulness on your own can be helpful, but I also suspect a large part of the therapeutic benefit of mindfulness for individuals comes from the fact that it’s traditionally trained in groups and communities, enabling us to learn with and from other people.

When people come together for a first session of mindfulness training, it’s usual to explore what brings each individual to the approach. Hearing others speak of the stress arising from common problems such as busy, uncontrolled thoughts, physical or emotional pain, the strain of personal and professional commitments, and the speed of a world that demands a dehumanizing degree of consumption and acquisition, there often dawns a first recognition that the real problem doesn’t just lie in…