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How Long Should I Meditate for?

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 24 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Meditation How Long Should I Meditate

How long you wish to meditate for is a matter of personal preference and circumstance. Initially it is wise to start with small sessions once daily of as little as five minutes at a time in order to get accustomed to the process of meditation and the sensations associated with it.

Many people are initially tense as they start meditation perhaps even fearful of what the spiritual path might throw up. A steady start to meditation, increasing the amount of time that you meditate incrementally over a period of weeks can help ease one into a course of regular meditation. Eventually it is possible to aim to meditate twice daily in sessions of up to 40 minutes each. Practically, however, when you first start to meditate it is sensible to do only what you can reasonably manage. Over time you will learn to incorporate the effects of meditation into your daily routine, making it easier to meditate from day to day.

Quality not Quantity

There are frequent stories of incredible feats of meditation, often involving a person, or persons, meditating for extreme prolonged periods of time. Interestingly, different forms of Buddhism claim that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, gained enlightenment by meditating for varying amounts of time. It is often claimed by Indian Buddhists that he sat for weeks in meditation under the ’Bodhi’ tree. However, the appearance of Enlightenment as a sudden and sometimes fleeting experience is central to Zen Buddhist belief, the point being that no amount of posturing and straining will bring Enlightenment any closer. The experience of attaining knowledge of genuine truth and being mindful of one’s place in the Universe is something that you wither do or you don’t do! For this reason, it is vital to focus on the quality of your spiritual practice rather than on its frequency or duration.

As the purpose of meditation is to clear one’s head of superfluous thoughts and to become mindful, one need only meditate long enough to feel the benefits of so doing. The longer one meditates for, the easier it may become to adopt a mindful attitude in their day to day life. However, deliberately straining to meditate for as long and as often as possible implies some sort of intense desire to meditate - something that is at odds with the very frame of mind that meditation intends to develop.

Practical Considerations

If you have a busy work or social life, live with others, or are liable to be interrupted regularly during meditation it may be advisable to keep your practice short. If you have a schedule that is sporadic, it may be best to plan just two or three longer sessions in the week, shortly after you wake. The main thing is to be able to plan around a duration of meditation that suits you. Trying to stick to a meditation routine that does not suit you will inevitably lead to frustration and a poorer quality experience.

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While meditating for 40 minutes at a time, twice a day, sounds ideal, for most people it's simply not practical. However, smaller sessions of 20 minutes twice a day can be quite practical within a normal schedule. Even with a family, kids and a job, once in the morning and once in the evening is workable without taking anything away from the rest of your life. In fact, those little oases should enhance your life, leaving you much calmer and more centred.
Chris N - 25-Jun-12 @ 6:55 PM
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