How Long Should You Meditate For?
The question ‘how long should I meditate for’ is often something that is hot on beginner meditators’ lips. This is usually because we have heard about the many benefits of meditation and want to know how long to do it for to reap the rewards.
There is also the idea floating around that somehow the longer you meditate for the ‘better’ a meditator you are or the deeper the meditative states you can enter. This is a myth, and I’ll succinctly explain why.
It is generally true that the longer you meditate the more experienced you may be with the practice, because you have had more opportunities to experiment and to see what experiences and states you can get into whilst meditating. However, overall number of hours that you’ve sat cross-legged does not imply you are in some way ‘better’ or can enter deep meditative states with ease.
Also, with each individual meditation session itself, the longer you sit for doesn’t necessarily mean the better meditation session you will have. You may sit for 60 minutes, but do so in agitation, discomfort and worry which would greatly disrupt your capacity to be mindful. Or you could sit for 5 minutes in calm, mindful being. Which would be more beneficial?
Therefore, it’s quite clear to see that it’s all about the quality of the meditation and not the quantity of time you sit down for.
With all that being said, I am going to go ahead and split my time recommendations between whether you’re new to meditation, have been doing it for a while or whether you’ve been meditating for a very long time.
NEW TO MEDITATION
If you are still getting to grips with meditation, discovering what it is about and the different ways you can go about doing it, then I really recommend that you keep it simple. Meditate for as long a time as your willpower allows. Meditate for 2 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter. What matters here is that you focus on building up a habit and for that habit to stick, you should make it as easy as possible to do everyday.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN MEDITATING FOR A WHILE
If you’ve been meditating for a moderate amount of time, between a few months and a few years, then I’d recommend that you take this time to push your limits slightly.
What I mean by that is, challenge your mindfulness by attempting to stay acutely mindful for double your current meditation time. If you meditate for 20 minutes per session, meditate for 40 minutes per session. This will do a few things.
The main thing that it will do is it will make you uncomfortable, which will paradoxically encourage acceptance of the meditation practice and help to cultivate a respect towards your sitting time, and these cultivated attitudes will move you into deeper states of being.
Also, you may try to remain mindful for the entire duration and succeed, which would serve to deepen your practice, or you may tragically fail and realize that you must let go of goals, attachments and aspirations, which in itself may lead to deeply peaceful states. They key thing here is to make yourself slightly uncomfortable so that you may move somewhere new in your meditation sessions, instead of remaining in the comfortable space of the 20 minutes you are used to.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN MEDITATING FOR A VERY LONG TIME
If you have been meditating for many years, there is a very good chance that you have experimented greatly with your meditation duration, different forms of meditation and have had different experiences with the practice.
In these stages, I’d encourage you to really look back at your previous experiences and to choose a time that you think is suitable to you. Pick meditation duration that brings out the greatest sense of clarity and peace for you, however long that may be.
The key here is to look into your own needs and what duration of sitting has provided you with the greatest benefit in meditation.