When a meditation is not a meditation
Is a 50 minute meditation session more beneficial than a 10 minute one?
Yes. And no.
If you are comfortable sitting in silence for 50 minutes or longer, then yes, this is very beneficial. However, for many, especially beginners, this can be frustrating and becomes a source of stress rather than the solution for it.
A meditation practice that requires you to sit still in silence for up to 50 minutes in the first few sessions is frankly, designed to fail! And if you are going to feel like you have failed, any attempt to meditate can become counterproductive.
It pleases me to say that I have seen a significant rise in people trying more spiritual or alternative practices, such as meditation. People are seeking help with ongoing stress as well as for more serious conditions such as depression.
However, as meditation is becoming more mainstream, how meditation is being taught and promoted concerns me as it affects people’s perception about meditation.
If you are beginning a meditation practice, it’s important to not place high expectations on an immediate change. Meditation is not a magic bullet that suddenly fixes all your problems during the first few sessions. Although you may notice immediate benefits, deeper lasting changes usually happen when you have been meditating for more than a month or so.
No matter how long you have been meditating, it can remain a challenging practice for some. It is important to understand that your mind will wander. This is normal, and should not be a source of frustration for you. Observe your mind wandering, and use it as a way to guide you back to silence.
Your mind, used to being busy, will fight the silence and stillness, this is where your awareness must kick in. Once you realise you mind has wandered, just gently bring your awareness back to your breathing.
Many of us starting out get frustrated with our wandering minds, and at times we feel it becoming a burden. But be assured, the more you do this practice the less your mind will wander. As with everything, a meditation practice is exactly that, a practice which you must continue practicing to perfect.
It is important to note that perfection is not about not having any thoughts during meditation, perfection is in your mindful awareness of when you do, and in your ability to detach from the thought and gently let it go.
As an avid meditator myself, I can suggest from experience that if you are contemplating meditation, begin slowly and take your time. Start with two minutes and then move to five minutes for a few days straight. Begin to feel comfortable with these time periods of silence or stillness before moving to longer times.
If you aren’t comfortable with silence then try a guided meditation. There are many guided sessions available online. I personally use Insight Timer, which is simple and supportive. The app has both silent and guided sessions available. If you find a meditation that works then stick with it until you feel the need to change, and believe me, you will make adjustments once you begin to genuinely experience the quiet space, otherwise known as the “Zone”.
Ideally, a minimum of 20 minutes a day is recommended and many experienced practitioners recommend two sessions a day, morning and evening. Many of us have busy schedules, so two sessions can be challenging. Please don’t stress if you can’t achieve this.
Meditation is all about relieving stress and returning your body to a more natural state. Therefore, it is all about you adopting a practice that you are comfortable with. Work up to a longer practice, only at your own pace. To begin, even a micro-meditation (5 minutes or less) is worth doing if that’s all you have time for. Consistency is far more important than the length of your session. So however long you choose to meditate for, do it consistently, every day.
And to answer the question above, I would rather do a ten minute meditation once a day, every day, than face the challenge of a 50 minute session that leaves me feeing stressed and frustrated!
I’ll finish off by saying that meditation is basically all about being in the most natural state of “being”. Hence its importance in our daily lives. Whilst you may feel that your normal waking state is your “natural state”, then think again.
It is only in the stillness of silence that everything can be heard, that everything can be achieved. For meditation done properly, is where “no-time” exists, and you become “no-thing”, giving you access to “every-thing” and all possibilities!
Create your own path!