There are numerous publications and studies around the limitless benefits of maintaining a constant meditation practice. There is however not a detailed guidance on how to incorporate this Eastern ancestral practice into our busy Western lives. More importantly, our Western minds are immediately and unconsciously drawn to the creation frameworks with timelines, correct steps to follow and specific ways in which to become more efficient. “How long should I meditate for to get all of the benefits I read about?” therefore becomes a very valid and popular question.
We turn to meditation to release stress and yet we count with limited time because of all the things we need (or believe we need) to do; which in turn adds more stress. Scheduling a new habit in our overscheduled lives is seen as a struggle. Our time is not to be wasted. What we really want to know is how little can we do and yet gain the most number of benefits possible? How long should I meditate for so that it doesn’t feel like a waste of time?
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour” – Old Zen saying
Meditation is an inner journey. ‘Inner’ because of its individual nature where there is not a rule that fits all. ‘Journey’ because every step, now matter how small, counts in the long term. To realise this there is a need to walk away from the Western mindset of wanting to see the immediate results of our actions.
There is no right answer to how long should a meditation practice be. This might cause confusion to many, but the beauty is that there is no wrong answer either! If you are consistent in your practice, you will gain all of its benefits. Be curious about what your body needs, about what your mind needs, about what your soul needs. Keeping a meditation journal will definitely help you design and incorporate your own practice into your life. Write down what draws you to your meditation cushion, how you feel before you settle into your meditation posture. Then write how you feel after you decide to put an end to your moment of meditation. Write down any thoughts and feelings that came around during your session. You will find the answer to your initial question in these pages. This will be your very own personal guide to meditation. The only guide you need.