The Six Preparatory Practices
Prior to the first meditation session of the day, it is good to do the six preparatory practices:
Sweep and clean the room and arrange the altar.
Make offerings on the altar, e.g. light, food, incense, water bowls, etc.
Sit in a comfortable position and examine your mind. If there is much distraction, do some breathing meditation to calm your mind. Then establish a good motivation. After that, take refuge and generate the dedicated heart by reciting the appropriate prayers.
Visualize the merit field with the Gurus, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, etc. If this is too difficult, visualize Shakyamuni Buddha alone and consider him the embodiment of all Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha.
Offer the seven limb prayer and the mandala, by reciting those prayers.
Make requests to the lineage Gurus for inspiration by reciting the requesting prayers.
It is also good to review the entire graduated path to enlightenment by reciting for example, "Foundation of All Excellence." This helps you to understand the purpose of the particular meditation that you will do in the overall scheme of training the mind in the gradual path. It also plants the seed for you to obtain each realization of the path. Then, do analytical meditation, thinking about one of the topics below by remembering and applying the explanations you have heard or read on the subject.