How long to sit?

thumbnail
Mike James Brown, modified 10 Years ago.

How long to sit?

Posts: 36 Join Date: 4/12/11 Recent Posts
I'm quite fortunate to have about a month of free-time so I'm able to sit almost whenever I want. Can anyone recommend how long I should sit and how often? Usually I sit for 50 mins (at least once a day) but if things are going well I'll just ignore the timer and continue. However, with so much free-time I'm thinking of sitting for 40 mins about 4 times a day. I find the pain becomes a huge distraction between the 40-50 mark and so I don't wanna 'burnout' by facing 4 times 50 mins a day. Do you think I should push for longer sits (but less often) or shorter sits (but more often)? Am I missing anything by not doing longer sits and pushing thru the pain? M
Aaron J, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How long to sit?

Posts: 10 Join Date: 11/20/09 Recent Posts
Hi Mike -- You might take an interest in pain as distraction. There's pain indicating that damage is being done to the body, and there's pain that's something else. It's important to know the difference, though sometimes difficult to distinguish. In my experience, some of the most intense, searing pain I've ever experienced was while doing long sits, and that pain turned out to be nothing about damaging the body... So, some discernment is important. Don't hurt yourself.

With that said, pain can be a provocative object of meditation; it doesn't have to be a distraction -- the three characteristics are here too.

Map the field of pain: where is the pain, what are its boundaries, where does it end, where is the heart of the pain? Get to know the geography and topography of the pain. Is it on the surface, in the flesh, how deep? Does the field of pain move? Observe the pain closely: Is the pain gross and solidified or is it made up of various sensations? If it's made up of sensations, what are those sensations? Is there constancy in those sensations or do they come and go? Play with attention: What happens when attention is brought to the whole field of pain? What happens when attention is brought, like a laser beam, to a fraction of the field? What happens when attention is held tightly on the field? What happens when attention is brought gently, like a feather, to the field? There are lots of ways to approach pain, so hopefully, something here is helpful.

Personally, I don't think there's much danger of truly burning out through sitting too much (although, it may feel like burning out at times), so I'd play with your edge and extend yourself just over it (without harming the body). You could always alternate sitting practice with walking, lying-down, standing or daily life practices, paying close attention to bare sensations.

I hope you enjoy your month of free time.
thumbnail
Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How long to sit?

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Mike James Brown:
I find the pain becomes a huge distraction between the 40-50 mark and so I don't wanna 'burnout' by facing 4 times 50 mins a day.

While there may be some merit to be realized in sitting through pain, when practicing for realization of the truths of the Dhamma I prefer to eliminate the distraction of any pain by adjusting the body so as to eliminate the painful position.

If needed, use a chair or sofa to meditate on. Nothing is set in stone regarding sitting the traditional lotus or half lotus position (or even just the cross legged Indian style). Also if needed, adjust your legs whenever numbness or other pain begins to set in, and don't even give a second thought about having done so. Just get back to the object of your meditation (e.g. the breath or whatever insight object you may be examining).

Mike James Brown:
However, with so much free-time I'm thinking of sitting for 40 mins about 4 times a day.... Do you think I should push for longer sits (but less often) or shorter sits (but more often)?

Forty minutes to an hour is an ideal amount of time to spend in meditation, conditioning the mind for discipline. Of course, the frequency is totally up to you the practitioner. Do whatever you feel comfortable and beneficial doing. I found three times a day (morning, noon, and evening) an hour apiece to work well for me earlier in my practice (it gave me time to get other things done in between). At present I only sit twice a day for an hour and a half total (one hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening), mostly in contemplation (vipassana) rather than calming (samatha). I find time spent in contemplation (reflecting on whatever is going on in my life or anything I wish to examine in more depth) to be most beneficial for me. But each to his own.
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How long to sit?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
I agree with Ian on adjusting your position so there's no pain. There will be plenty of other distracting things - no need to make it harder on yourself. Nowadays I meditate lying down, although I couldn't do that earlier as I wasn't focused enough.

Although - in an earlier post you said you sat for 1 hour and 20 minutes and felt like you could sit for a few more hours. Now you get pain at the 40-50 minute mark. Did you shift your position? If not, the pain might be of the psychological variety as Aaron suggested. Don't worry about missing anything if you just shift your position though.. it'll manifest anyway as something different if you're in a less painful position.

Length-wise, 40-60 minutes should be fine. If you want to meditate for a long stretch (like a few hours) then try alternating sitting meditation ~1 hour with walking meditation ~30 mins. Try to be mindful in the transitions from sitting to walking and back as well.
thumbnail
Mike James Brown, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How long to sit?

Posts: 36 Join Date: 4/12/11 Recent Posts
Thanks everyone for that information. I guess I'm just old-school regarding pushing thru the pain, so it's reassuring that moving posture when the pain becomes unbearable, is ok. I tend to sit for about 30 mins before the first discomfort of my posture becomes noticeable. By the 40 min mark it becomes really distracting and by 50-60 mins I'm sweating blood.

Last night I tried the suggestion of lying down and meditating. Definitely has a different feel to it. Somewhere around the 2nd jhana things went really different tho. Got all the vibrations as usual,but not pleasant at all - very flat and depressing. If my previous jhana expriences were like Disney's 'Phantasia', last night was more like Tim Burton's 'A Christmas Nightmare'. Felt strangely edgy on coming out of the sit and even a hint of paranoia (but towards nothing). Lots of lucid dreaming recently, but last night nothing. Woke up this morning and seem to have lost that negativity.

ps, Beoman, the sit sit I did a couple of weeks ago was during the 'high' of A&P, I think. That stage has well disappeared and I'm back to sitting like a mere mortal once more!

Breadcrumb