Meditation and reading make for a perfect combination. But there’s no right or wrong when it comes to which comes first because there are benefits to meditating before reading, as well as after. It’s a bit like combining it with journaling.
The short answer is to find out what makes you feel like you accomplish more and feel free to swap the order. Getting meditation right, in general, can be a process of trial and error. If you’re a reader, you’ll benefit from the practice, regardless of if you do it before or after.
Reading can be a bit like a stepping stone to building other good habits, because how you do one thing is generally how you do other things.
Of course, that’s not to say that you have to read or that you have to enjoy reading to be good at meditation. They can go as well separately as together.
Here are some benefits to meditating before reading, but I’ll also explain why you may want to do it after. Don’t take anything you read here as gospel or set in stone because your experience might vary.
Meditating Before Reading: Sponge-Like Absorption
If you ever wanted to be better at absorbing what you read, meditating before reading can help with that since you’ll be learning how to be disciplined and focused on what you’re doing in the present moment.
So if you’re reading for anything that’s college related, reading after the session might be your best bet if what you’re after is retaining as much as possible and getting a better grasp of what you’re reading.
You might be able to absorb what you read, almost in a sponge-like way, to the point where you might have an easier time recalling, but there’s a difference between memorizing things and understanding them.
Meditation often allows you to dive deeper into what you’re doing and understand the bigger picture, which will often turn beneficial when it comes to reading. In addition, it could also save you from repeating what you read several times only to get a better grasp.
When you put yourself in a meditative state, your mind is in the present and you have your attention on the task at hand, which will often work to your benefit, both in the short term and the long term.
Based on my own personal experience, I know I had an easier time retaining information and recalling what I read, which was often reflected in the tests I took. But that’s not to say you can’t get the same benefit from meditating after reading as well.
Meditating After Reading: Putting The Mind at Ease
When you start your session, and for it to be as efficient as possible, giving you a chance to enter a deep meditation, you’ll benefit from having a mind that already is in a calm state and sleep-like state. It cuts the work by half, if not more.
The mind often shows resistance to meditation in the form of distractions or making us see it as something tedious, but the same can be said about anything else that causes some discomfort and doesn’t give the mind its quick taste of dopamine.
Meditation in itself helps you push past that, but before the meditation even begins, you might be able to get yourself in a calmer state sooner, since your mind is not entering the session from a place of stress, but from a place of relative calm, since reading is often associated with something calm, and even hard.
If you enjoy reading, you’re at an advantage, because you’d already be carrying a habit that perfectly complements another, amplifies, and helps you overall make progress faster with meditation.
Faster might not always be better, because meditation can feel intense for those starting out, whereas there are others that want results in the snap of a finger, but if you start the practice with an advantage, you’re more likely to stick with it over the long haul.
I say intense, in the sense that with meditation, anything can happen, even if it often results in a calmer and soothing experience, but we open up our mind to our thoughts flowing, and not being judgmental of them.
But some will understandably put a label on these thoughts, be they negative or positive. The less someone categorizes these thoughts and instead sees them as mere existence, the easier it is to make any form of progress with meditation.
But if your mind is at ease from the start, as a result of a calming habit such as reading, you might be less likely to experience these “negative thoughts”, even if they are prone to happen, sooner or later, given that meditation isn’t necessarily a sugarcoated experience some might paint it out to be.
It can be for many, but everyone is different, which is why it helps to be open to anything that pops up in our minds.
Meditation Can Help You Become a Better Reader
Whether you choose to meditate before, or after, the combination with reading can make you a better reader since you might enjoy the reading more.
A reason reading can be boring is you aren’t engaged with what you are reading, or if what you’re reading is shoved down your throat, as opposed to reading what you want to read for the sake of enjoyment. Reading is one of those habits that can be compared to exercise or eating healthy.
The way to become a better reader is to enjoy what you are reading, it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey as well.
If your mind is constantly distracted as a result of not training your mind to be in the here and now, it’s only gonna make the reading boring and unfulfilling. So in that sense, meditation can be a way to save you from that and kickstart your reading in the right direction.
Do You Have to Enjoy Reading?
It’s not always about enjoying something, even if it helps. Sometimes, a great test of our discipline is doing things we don’t enjoy, which eventually become things we enjoy.
It’s a way to find ourselves, and reading can be compared with meditation in the sense that you may not enjoy the idea of meditation in itself, but you still push through barriers that get smaller over time, and you might start enjoying the benefits that come with meditation, just like you might start to enjoy the benefits that come with reading, making you see it as overall worth it.
I like to say that meditation makes the idea of boring the new fun, and the threshold to achieve fulfillment lowers, and we start to enjoy the simpler things in life.
But you don’t have to enjoy reading, nor do you have to do it, nor combine it with meditation. There are many successful individuals and meditators that don’t like reading, and by extension, don’t engage with reading. That might be your case, even if reading can be a desirable habit to have.
Always Be Open to Experimentation
You might’ve heard it’s better to read before the session or vice versa. Always be willing to put it to the test, no matter how credible the source may seem.
Because the only way to find out is to measure how you feel and if you notice any progress.
That might not be measurable from the start, but, over time, it could be in a matter of weeks or sometimes months, you figure out whether meditating works for you before or after reading.
You might not even have a set rule and combine the two arbitrarily, or you might not even read at all. But the point is, someone else’s experience with meditation doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with yours.
And it helps to be mindful of that because it’s only human for us to compare ourselves to someone else, without taking into account that that person might be on a different journey.