Finding time to meditate in midst of a busy life isn’t easy. We might put off a meditation practice until we have enough spare time to do it justice. Is this right strategy?
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How long should we meditate?
You should meditate 25 hours a day if possible. If it’s not possible for you to meditate 25 hours a day, then I recommend you meditate for as long as you can as you schedule allows.
The best way to think about this question is to ask yourself, What am I trying to do with meditation?
Do I want to dip my toe into it to see if I like it?
Am I looking for health benefits?
Do I want to develop mental coping strategies?
Or am I trying to establish an ongoing practice?
Maybe you’re the unique individual who wants to become a monk, isolate yourself from society, shun worldly existence and wait it out until the human race destroys itself. If this is the case, then you just do you and meditate any which way you like for however long you like.
What Are Your Meditation Objectives?
But if you’re trying to achieve one of the other goals with mediation, then here are my suggested times:
I want to dip my toe into meditation to see if I like it
Start with a few minutes a day. With a type of meditation you do with use. Checkout guided meditations online or an app that has short meditations.
I’m looking for health benefits
Even doing 5 to 10 minutes of mediation daily can result in health benefits but realistically I would recommend 15 to 20 minutes a day minimum.
I want to develop mental coping strategies
I would recommend starting at 15 to 20 minutes a day and then more as you get comfortable and begin to see results. This amount of meditation is more likely to help you when you’re away from the meditation cushion, which is when we need to draw on mental coping strategies.
I want to establish an ongoing meditation practice as a part of my self-development
If you feel you want to dig deeper into meditation and making a lasting habit that produces lasting changes in your mind and life, you’re looking at 35-45 minutes twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening.
Practice Like a Musician
You can pursue music as a hobby, a passion or a profession. And depending on what your aim is as a musician, you’ll practice a different amount daily.
Professional singers and musicians practice for hours a day to keep up their skills
My friends love going to karaoke and they’ll start singing along to a song playing on the radio at the drop of a beat – but they don’t consciously take any scheduled time out of the day to practice singing – they just sing organically with the rhythm of their life to make sure they still got it when they grab that mike in a karaoke bar in front tens of distracted listeners.
My karaoke loving friends are not trying to become professional singers, they’re just trying to have fun singing. So they practice as a part of their lifestyle.
So it is with mediation. You can make it a lifestyle wherever you find a few minutes here or there. Usually AM radio doesn’t suddenly break into five minutes of meditative silence so that might not be the best source.
But when you have a quiet moment, maybe in between tasks or waiting for someone, you can just do a few deep breaths and watch what’s happening with your body, mind and breath. Guess what? You’re meditating.
Meditative acts done regularly do have an effect in the long run.
My meditation doesn’t really get going until 25-35 min mark, and I’ve been meditating for decades. I know I have to push through that mark to arrive at the meditative space I’m aiming for.
Meditating Regularly is More Important Than Length of Meditation
Of course, in the big picture, it’s better we meditate every day rather than how long we meditate at any particular sitting. So if your schedule or situation only allows a few minutes a day, then do that and then build up to longer meditations as your aims for meditation change.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s more important the attitude and energy we bring to meditation than the type of meditation or length of meditation. If we see meditation as a chore, we’re not going to do it or like it. We’re not going to be drawn to it in the moments we have between tasks. We won’t want to take those opportunities to meditate because it will feel too task-like.
But if we see meditation as a joy, as an opportunity to be grateful for, as an activity that will benefit us when we hit the karaoke stage of life – which is the times of emotional difficulty – then we’re more likely to do it. If feel that meditation is going to be there for us to lift us up or center us or ground us when we really need it, we’re more likely to practice meditation naturally. And we’re more likely to naturally find the length of meditation that works for us if we’re bringing an attitude of joy and gratitude while doing it.
The Big Benefit of Meditating Every Day
I’ll leave you with a story that’s been attributed to many saints/gurus who were expert meditators. When asked, master why do you meditate for so many hours a day? They replied, because I have so many tasks to do, I would never get through them if I didn’t have the foundation of meditation
I like this sentiment a lot. I don’t know how true or accurate it is, but I like the sentiment.
First of all, most saints/gurus DON’T have a lot of tasks they need to do during the day – they get their disciples to do them. Most of the tasks for spiritual teachers is talking to and guiding their students – which is, admittedly, important and at times difficult emotional work. But it’s not like they’re making breakfasts, taking the kids to school, going to work, coming home and doing housework, taking care of parents, and on and on and on. It’s not that kind of taskiness of life.
But that’s the kind of taskiness of life we all have to deal with. And it’s easy to push healthy habits off to the side for another time. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’ll do that when there’s more time in my day.” There’s some validity to this way of thinking.
We all have busy lives and lots that needs to be done and sometimes it’s hard to find even a few minutes for ourselves.
But there’s also validity to the idea that taking care of ourselves, be that eating healthy, exercising regularly, meditating regularly can make everything else better and less stressful and less difficult.
So how long should you meditate at a particular sitting?
You should meditate for long as it takes to get the benefits you want.