Advice from a Buddhist monk on how to start a successful meditation practice

Thinking, techniques and tips from 'The Urban Monk', Dr. Bhante Saranapala

Nicole Mahabir · CBC Life

"Meditation is a healing technique, it is inner work, it is not just sitting and breathing. There is more to be done and this is what most people do not know about meditation. This is beyond mindfulness. We meditate often because we want inner-peace but our inner problems do not disappear immediately. You have to do the inner work. Meditation is all about looking within."

Dr. Bhante Saranapala, fondly known as The Urban Monk, is a teacher of meditation to classes of the Peel police in Greater Toronto, a global public speaker, and founder of Canada: A Mindful and Kind Nation which hosts an annual symposium aimed at "promoting mental health through mindfulness meditation and kindfulness practice." Dr. Saranapala has been featured in the media for his compassionate work and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Spirit Award from the Government of Ontario.

Dr. Saranapala describes meditation as internal medicine for peace and well-being. "When you are not feeling well, you go to the doctor. The doctor gives you a prescription to recover from sickness and then you have to take the medicine twice a day. In the same way, meditation must be taken. If you don't take the prescription as ordered, then the solution to a balanced healthy lifestyle is ignored."

I sat with Dr. Saranapala to discuss how a novice might establish a successful meditation practice, and overcome the obstacles that we may face with meditation both at the outset and along the way.

Here, Dr. Saranapala provides us with practical and meaningful tips about mindfulness meditation, and developing healthy mental habits that improve our quality of life and happiness.

"When people sit down to meditate, they have the optimistic feeling of hope and peace, but they expect meditation to happen immediately...this is the first obstacle to meditation."

Begin by building your mental fitness

Dr. Saranapala likens meditation to a physical workout. "When you go to the gym, it may be difficult at first and if you only visit the gym once in a while, you may not achieve your goal. At the beginning stages of meditation, it's similar, you must commit to the practice."

Begin by sitting for just fifteen minutes a day, then increase your sit to half an hour and then an hour a day, if you have time. "You need to be consistent and persistent. Practicing for just fifteen minutes a day will build your mental fitness."