Maintaining a Regular Practice as an International YA

Meet Fleur, a meditator who lives in the Netherlands. This week, Fleur shares some of her strategies for sustaining a practice as an international YA without access to a local passage meditator community. Regardless of where we live, Fleur has great tips for strengthening a daily meditation practice.

Hello dear meditator friends,

As a native of the Netherlands I have been practicing Easwaran’s method of meditation since my undergraduate years. While in Holland YA meditators are not that thick on the ground, meditation as an international YA has its own special strategy for maintaining a regular practice. In this blog I would love to share with you how I managed to build, and keep up, a solid meditation practice as an international YA. 

The UC Berkeley campus, where Fleur first discovered Easwaran and passage mediation.

The UC Berkeley campus, where Fleur first discovered Easwaran and passage mediation.

Let me first share with you how I stumbled upon Easwaran’s method of meditation. During my undergraduate years, I came to UC Berkeley on an exchange program. As a pre-medical student, I certainly needed stress relief, so I started looking for meditation classes. Coincidentally, I was about to study at the only university in the United States offering a meditation course for credit! The course was taught by an experienced professor who welcomed us by mentioning that this may be the most important skill we will ever learn. We meditated three mornings a week at 7 a.m. with 90 students on the beautiful Berkeley campus. In addition, we studied the book Passage Meditation, containing all the basic instructions to start your own practice. In this book, Eknath Easwaran says “All I ask is 30 minutes a day.” This seemed like a reasonable demand. I could not have expected that this small-time investment would slowly start to change my life.

In the midst of a busy medical and research career, and currently finding myself in medical residencies, meditation has proved itself invaluable in more ways than I can express. It has not only helped me reduce stress and increase my focus and work efficiency, but it has allowed access to inner resources to stay balanced, healthy, and happy in an overly busy life. Once I started tasting these ‘fruits’ of meditation, I knew I needed to stick with it. But how do we keep up a meditation practice in the midst of the hubbub of daily life? And how can we successfully keep up a meditation practice as an international YA?

Sustaining your enthusiasm is key

To maintain a daily meditation practice, finding ways to boost our enthusiasm is key. What are some of the things that have helped me to get up early in the morning and hit the pillow?

Firstly, I have found that spiritual fellowship is essential in keeping up my enthusiasm. In many ways, meditation is going against the current, externally in terms of what other peers are doing, as well as internally in going against our own conditioning and undesirable habits. Finding ‘allies’ who also practice meditation is very helpful, if not essential. During my student years, I found an established satsang nearby that I attended on a monthly basis. For some time we even had a YA Satsang in Amsterdam, which was very helpful and a lot of fun. We would read, do a video study and meditate together, and follow it with a shared dinner. Sometimes we’d organize an entertaining event. As my YA friends found jobs in other areas and moved away, I had to resort to alternative ways of finding spiritual fellowship. Some of us kept up a YA phone or Skype satsang, which was most useful, and the YA eSatsang turned out to be a great e-replacement! Connecting with fellow YA meditators through the eSatsang, whether actively participating myself or not, greatly inspires me.

Fleur at a retreat in Tomales, California.

Fleur at a retreat in Tomales, California.

Attending Retreats

Attending a retreat is another powerful way to boost your meditation practice in a fun way while also getting plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. You can check out the website or BMCM Journal to see if any regional retreats are offered in your area. In my case, there weren’t any regional retreats, so I have given myself the advantage of attending a retreat in Tomales, California, once a year. Despite the long flight, airfare, and jetlag, it has always been entirely worth it flying over from Europe, and I would highly recommend attending retreats to anyone! There is nothing else that replenishes my physical and spiritual energy as much as a retreat.  Scholarships and reduced prices are available for YAs.

Website/ blogpost

You’ve already made it to our weblog, and hopefully you like it. Although it is relatively new (we just had our one-year anniversary), it is a great way to stay connected. Inspiring stories, passages, and fun events remind me of what is really important in life.

Reading the mystics/ books

Ever since I started meditating, I have realised there is great power in spiritual literature. Although, I have to admit, it sounded boring before I ever tried it, it is very uplifting and fun. There are usually two books on my nightstand, one book by Easwaran for spiritual instruction, and one spiritual book by another author to read from before I go to bed. There are so many great, inspiring and entertaining stories out there, such as (auto) biographies about the lives of the mystics. Just tap into your YA network if you’d like any suggestions!

Regular practice

Above all, I would like to highlight the importance of maintaining regularity in our practice. The time it costs to sit down and meditate will pay itself back in so many ways. It is something that you can verify only for yourself.