Meditation 101 : How Long to Meditate
How Long to Meditate
Excerpted from Everyday Meditation
by Tobin Blake
Well-meaning meditation instructors often make a serious blunder by suggesting that students spend excessive amounts of time meditating. This is a mistake that has gone on long enough, and it reflects the typically American misperception that bigger is better, more is more valuable, and excess is success. Long meditations only increase fatigue in most beginning students and may, as a result, add to resistance. Meditation doesn't require much time at all. Anybody can close their eyes and spend an hour or longer thinking. This is not meditation. In contrast, just one instant of focused meditation is enough to make a deep inner connection. Your core self is not far away. It's a part of you. In fact, it's the only real part of you. Everything else is just temporary stuff, like clouds drifting across the sky. How long, then, does it take to connect to your core self? As will be discussed later, it doesn't take any time at all. What it does require is pure desire and simple freedom from conflict.
Therefore, as you proceed, please keep in mind that the quality of your practicing is much more important than the quantity. Instead of meditating for extended periods of time, if you want to spend more time on your practice, I suggest you increase the number of daily sessions. For instance, if you plan on spending thirty minutes a day meditating, instead of doing one thirty-minute meditation, try three ten-minute meditations morning, afternoon, and evening. Or two fifteen-minute sittings. Of course, it's fine for those with more experience to sit for however long feels pleasant. For some, sessions of thirty to sixty minutes may be appropriate. For students who are brand new to the practice, anywhere from five to twenty minutes is certainly adequate.
How to Sit
I want you to keep two words in mind while deciding how to sit during meditation: comfortable and proud. While there are a number of specific positions such as the famous lotus position, in which you sit cross-legged with one or both ankles over the opposite thigh(s) how you sit during meditation is not all that important. There are, however, a few points to keep in mind regarding posture and position.
1. Get comfortable: First and foremost, you should sit in a way that makes you feel comfortable and at ease. You may sit in a chair, on a bed, or on a sofa, with your legs crossed or your feet flat on the floor; or you can adopt a cross-legged position on the floor. Use pillows to adjust your position and provide support and comfort.
2. Be proud: Do not lie down, which increases withdrawal, a tendency that can be problematic during meditation. Instead, sit up tall and proud, which will help keep you energized and will curtail excess tension that can arise from slouching. Keep your back comfortably straight, with your head up and shoulders erect. Rest your hands in your lap or on your legs, wherever they fall naturally, and above all else, relax. Attempt to gain a sense of your muscles loosening up, and let any tension and stress drain away. Give yourself permission to just let it all go and be at peace for a while in body and in mind.
Other than following these simple guidelines, forget about your body while you practice. With the exception of a few techniques, meditation is a shift away from the bodily level, and obsessing about how to sit, where to place this or that body part, what to do with your hands, and so on is just one more distraction from the practice itself.
With these basics in mind, the most helpful attitude when learning meditation is one of nonjudgment. Do not judge the experiences you have on a day-to-day basis, whether they seem good or bad at the time. Meditation is an evolution that gently expands your consciousness over time, but along the way you will go through many stages of expansion and contraction. What this means is, you will experience stages of deepening meditative awareness followed by times during which your meditations will seem to become shallower. This is a natural process, but the overall direction is always one of growth. Retrogression is temporary and, in fact, important. These alternating periods of growth and retreat produce a waxing and waning effect that provides the ultimate contrast between being at peace and in sync with core self, and then losing touch. Through these contrasting stages, you will learn which direction brings peace and which discomfort, and thus you will develop the necessary motivation for going deeper into your meditations. Without this, the journey would quickly become stagnant.
So don't judge. Your only "job" is to focus on your daily practice and let the meditative journey unfold naturally.
Another helpful attitude is to approach your practicing with a feeling of deep reverence. Don't just plop down to practice, but pause for a moment before you sit down, and remind yourself of the importance of what you are doing. You are trying to reach beyond your body, beyond images and thoughts, and even past the world itself, directly into your core. You are seeking direct conscious experience of the original spark of life that exists at the center of your being and that connects you directly with Source. Touching your core, even if for only an instant, is an experience of indescribable power. It is so compelling that once you have felt it in full awareness, your entire life will shift in a bold new direction toward peace, toward authentic power, and toward healing at the most profound level. •
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