As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “You have to learn how to sit without fighting. If you know how to sit like that, sitting is very pleasant.” (And, he adds, if you can’t sit like that, it’s okay to not sit at all.) But he and other teachers do have some time-tested tips for us. First, when taking your meditation seat, take some big in-and-out breaths. This will “prime the pump,” as it were, allowing your breath to settle and become more natural and less forced. Walking meditation is also a good way to shift your state of mind and enjoy the movement of your body.
Then there’s the practice of the “inward smile,” which involves almost no effort at all. How to do it is right there in the name: simply allow yourself to crack a smile slight enough that you feel it but that it’s not outwardly visible. (Sort of the opposite of that old Coke jingle about “the smile you can’t hide.”) If that doesn’t come easily, you might find it helpful to pretend for a moment that you have a happy secret you’d like to share, but can’t just yet. There’s been plenty of research that suggests that going out of our way to smile can make us feel at more ease; likewise, the inward smile can make your meditation time feel more pleasurable right away.