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optimal amount of daily practice time

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optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
12/25/19 12:33 PM
Hi there,

I often feel that music and meditation have a lot in common. Both are an art that can never be fully mastered and require training of the senses to feel subtle inputs.
So my question is as follows: For musicians studies have found that after more than four hours of deliberate practice the returns are negligible.
Do you think that meditation is different in that regard and if so why?
What is the optimal daily meditation time in your opinion?

Thank you for your help
Best
Pietro

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
12/27/19 7:40 AM as a reply to Pietro Surname.
I'd agree with you that they are similar, but I'd say that meditation has a vastly different relationship with time. A musician is often following linear steps to accomplish a goal and the linear "doing" does all the work.

There is very little about meditation that is linear. It's more about setting up the conditions for something to unfold on it's own and the effort invloved is simply readjusting for better conditions, moment by moment. The time in between these adjustments is where the growth occurs and that time varies greatly; This is also since meditation is not just about what you are spending time doing but also about what you are spending time not doing. And the "not doing" does a lot of the work!

How much time to spend depends on your goals and natural abilities. If you are interested in insight work, the skies the limit. The four hour rule with music practice definitely does not translate to insight meditation. It's normal for serious practitioners to practice 8-12 hours a day (or more) for weeks on silent retreat because that's a way to build a lot of momentum. It's also very normal for practitioners to get burned out and back off practice a bit. That's a feel that develops with practice.

If you don't have time for retreat, it seems a good rule of thumb is a 45-60 minute sit a day with additional sits on days when you have more free time. I used to do "power weekends" where I'd try to get 4-6 hours a day for 2 or 3 days in a row and it was effective.

It's important to remember, however, that the quality and of one's meditation is most important. One shouldn't start increasing meditation time if it's not quality meditation time! Also be sure you are enjoying your practice!!

Hope this helps!! 
       

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
12/27/19 12:42 PM as a reply to Nick O.
It's important to remember, however, that the quality and of one's meditation is most important. One shouldn't start increasing meditation time if it's not quality meditation time! 

What does this mean and how does one do it?

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
12/27/19 8:22 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
It's important to remember, however, that the quality and of one's meditation is most important. One shouldn't start increasing meditation time if it's not quality meditation time! 

What does this mean and how does one do it?
HA! Quality is a dangerous word to use. How would Professor Pirsig respond to this question?

My definition of quality meditation would be "holding the intent to do (insert practice) throughout a specified duration." 

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
12/28/19 11:45 AM as a reply to Pietro Surname.
Pietro Surname:
Hi there,

I often feel that music and meditation have a lot in common. Both are an art that can never be fully mastered and require training of the senses to feel subtle inputs.
So my question is as follows: For musicians studies have found that after more than four hours of deliberate practice the returns are negligible.

How you define "returns", is the key here. The goal of music practice is very different from the goal of meditation practice. That makes "returns" of the two non comparable and hence the practice time is not comparable either.

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
1/2/20 8:40 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Hi Nick,

thank you for your answer. I am asking specifically for doing a solo retreat where there is no external time limit.

If I understand your answer correctly, meditation is about setting up the conditions for something to unfold. When I meditate I usually try to concentrate on a specific meditation object. To me, this feels very much like following linear steps to accomplish the goal of concentration, especially when doing noting. Should I do only a few hours a day of vipassana?

Thanks again
P

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
1/8/20 6:05 AM as a reply to Pietro Surname.
The structure of the retreat is important. A mix of walking, sitting, listening to dharma, mindful eating, mindful work, and periodic check-ins with teachers (every day ideally) makes for a good retreat and it is sustainable and productive for days and weeks in a row.

People tend to burn out when there is too much sitting, no walking, no access to teachers. 

From IMS https://www.dharma.org/retreats/faqs/


Here is a typical daily Retreat Center schedule. Please note that it is only tentative – a more precise schedule will be available on your arrival.

5:30 am – Wake up
6:00 am – Sitting meditation

… 6:30 am – Breakfast …

7:15 am – Work-as-practice period
8:15 am – Sitting meditation with instructions
9:15 am – Walking meditation
10:00 am – Sitting meditation
10:45 am – Walking meditation or meetings with teachers
11:30 am – Sitting meditation

… 12:00 noon – Lunch …

1:45 pm – Walking meditation
2:15 pm – Sitting meditation
3:00 pm – Walking meditation
3:45 pm – Sitting meditation
4:30 pm – Walking meditation

… 5:00 pm – Light Dinner …

6:15 pm – Sitting meditation
7:00 pm – Walking meditation
7:30 pm – Dharma talk
8:30 pm – Walking meditation
9:00 pm – Sitting meditation
9:30 pm – Late tea, further practice or sleep

Hope this helps!

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
1/8/20 6:52 AM as a reply to Nick O.
It's more about setting up the conditions for something to unfold on it's own and the effort invloved is simply readjusting for better conditions, moment by moment.


I really like this definition for meditation!

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
1/8/20 8:45 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:

HA! Quality is a dangerous word to use. How would Professor Pirsig respond to this question?
 


Obscure reference alert! emoticon I want to joke (and this is kinda mean, so understand I really enjoyed the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but still there are some problems with that book...) that the professor would go into catatonic withdrawal and say that the experience was a spiritual insight.

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
1/8/20 10:33 AM as a reply to Pietro Surname.
Just a word about the music and meditation connexion : I also believe there is something profound going on there.

Music is muse-ic, it is (was) the art of the muses. The three original muses were mneme, memory, aede, "song", and méletè. The word méletè is the greek equivalent to latin meditatio

I don't think music is anymore about achieving specific results - in the sense of being able to play such piece at such speed in such a way... blabla... - than meditation. I don't think it's only about "external" objects ... Music is not about sounds.

Although, this is what it has become to mean in most music schools . But the same could be said with meditation : the burmese train in fruition and other things in systematic ways that could definitely be described as practice of the kind we imagine when talking about music training (repetition, frequency, duration, precision, timing, etc.)

Remember that music, in the west, was the central part of religious practice for centuries (millenia ?). It was what brought people to the brink of transcendance, in christian liturgies. These men sang all day long, they sang music composed by masters who had in mind the goal of allowing others to also access the experience of the absolute. High culture was about that, art was about that, and music was the primary means of achieving illumination. Sure, all this took part in a very different culture and worldview than our own. We can also bring into question what was actually happening to these guys talking about the stupor, and admiratio which was brought about by music. But some people, very probably, actually became awakened, awakened to the truth, through these practices. Art was always considered as the way to express truth, culture as a whole was in essence the preserved, collective memory of how to access the truth.

This has really really not been true in the recent past... Knowledge in our culture means "objective", scientific knowledge. Today there is little "high" art. But some people still exist who preserve these connections. Like Keith Jarrett, Marcel Pérès, people like famed conductor Celibidache, who would say that music is meditation. I sometimes think the converse is also true. When the buddha gives the image of tuning an instrument for balancing the spiritual faculties, I don't think the image was simply because his interlocutor was a musician. There is something in meditation about being in tune, about some centering and balance of the being, a rightness which is like existential justness. 

I suspect this is also the essence of music...

But something that music allows for is intersubjectivity, which is absent from what we here would call meditation, I think. And that would be an interesting topic to discuss ! Could it be that, through individual voices (aede), meditation (méletè) can go from being an individual affair to being a collective experience through the virtues of memory (mneme) which allows us to create forms, signs, and just about everything which pertains to human culture ? The act of making this happen is music ? Music includes meditation but meditation doesn't include music ?

Well, I'll stop rambling, curious to hear what you think.

Kind regards,

Olivier

RE: optimal amount of daily practice time
Answer
1/8/20 11:08 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Nick O:

HA! Quality is a dangerous word to use. How would Professor Pirsig respond to this question?
 


Obscure reference alert! emoticon I want to joke (and this is kinda mean, so understand I really enjoyed the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but still there are some problems with that book...) that the professor would go into catatonic withdrawal and say that the experience was a spiritual insight.

Right!? I read the book during my "searching" phase. Might be a fun re-read at some point to take in with an updated perspective.