Here are five things you can do at the beginning of a meditation period that may help you get settled and prepare your mind for meditation.
It is very helpful after you get seated in your comfortable, upright posture to generate some Gratitude – gratitude towards your teachers who have taught you the dhamma, gratitude for the life circumstances that enable you to undertake this meditation period, gratitude for the millions of people who have had a hand in preserving the Buddha’s dhamma for two and half thousand years, gratitude to the Buddha for finding and showing the way, gratitude for anything else that you are currently grateful for.
A second preliminary is to get in touch with your Motivation. Why are you doing this practice? Whatever it is, getting it clear in your mind hopefully will inspire you.
Then work up some Determination – not determination to get anything, just determination to do your very best to use this time as wisely as possible. Get as strong a sense of that as you can, then let it go. It is not useful to begin your practice with a tight mind.
At the beginning of every meditation period, you should always do some Metta (loving-kindness) practice – always for yourself, and additionally for others if you wish. Metta practice enhances the positive mind state generated moments earlier by the gratitude practice, as well as starting to generate some concentration. If metta meditation is not something you like doing, it is still important to do at least a little at the beginning of every sitting. You don’t have to feel anything; you just have to remind yourself that it really is okay to be well and happy, and that it would be nice if others that you know are also well and happy.
The last of the five things is only useful if you are using mindfulness of breathing as your method, otherwise just skip it. It’s a Saying from Thich Nhat Hanh: “Breathing in I calm body and mind, breathing out I smile.”