Possibly an odd question re: duration of practice

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Rashed Arafat, modified 11 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:38 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 7/20/11 4:38 PM

Possibly an odd question re: duration of practice

Posts: 155 Join Date: 7/13/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

I'm wondering if anybody else on here has had trouble settling on a specific duration for their sittings. I have often "decided" to meditate for, let's say "40 minutes, no more and no less, for the next six months" and then, after a few weeks of practice, felt that it might help me more to meditate for longer. But then, after meditating for, let's say 50 minutes for a few weeks, I'd think that that's "too much" and revert back to 40.

Basically the impetus behind such flipping back and forth is the idea that there's an "ideal" or "optimal" duration for my body-mind that can sustain itself through varying circumstances. However, after years -- as embarrassing as it sounds, it's the truth -- of obsessing over such a petty issue (and going back and forth on it), I'm coming around to thinking that all of that is just BS -- I just need to pick a duration and stick to it through thick-or-thin.

Of course, it makes sense to want to sit for longer and longer as one's skill develops, but that's a different thing than assuming, at the outset, that there's an optimal duration for my constitution, so to speak.

Told you it was an odd question! emoticon
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago at 7/20/11 11:44 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 7/20/11 11:44 PM

RE: Possibly an odd question re: duration of practice (Answer)

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Rashed Ararat:

Basically the impetus behind such flipping back and forth is the idea that there's an "ideal" or "optimal" duration for my body-mind that can sustain itself through varying circumstances. However, after years -- as embarrassing as it sounds, it's the truth -- of obsessing over such a petty issue (and going back and forth on it), I'm coming around to thinking that all of that is just BS -- I just need to pick a duration and stick to it through thick-or-thin.

Of course, it makes sense to want to sit for longer and longer as one's skill develops, but that's a different thing than assuming, at the outset, that there's an optimal duration for my constitution, so to speak.

Hello Rashed,

You're very intelligent person. But sometimes you let your intelligence get in the way of your practice and you over think things. You got it right when you said "I just need to pick a duration and stick to it..."

Generally speaking, when people start out with meditation, their mind is not their own. It flits and flirts around where ever it pleases at its own leisure. And they find it difficult to sit for 10 minutes much less the 30 that is often recommended. Thirty minutes is a bare minimum for starting out, the way I view it. If you can't sit comfortably for 30 minutes, then you really need to work on your patience and determination. A person is not going to get that patience and determination by sitting for 10 or 20 minutes. They really need to work on the self-discipline to challenge themselves to sit longer even though they don't think they can. From there one should strive to increase the time to 45 minutes and then to at least 1 hour.

You can sit for longer periods than 1 hour, but in one hour you'll usually have enough time to get to everything you set out to achieve for that sit. In other words, sometimes it takes a half hour before some people's minds settle down enough to begin to pursue calm (samatha) meditation. Other times they may achieve it within the first five minutes; and on those occasions it gives them a chance to explore deeper levels of calm (for example, the jhanas and the various levels within that). So, it all just depends on what it is you are attempting to achieve in an individual sit and how long it takes you to achieve it.

In peace,
Ian
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Rashed Arafat, modified 11 Years ago at 7/21/11 12:08 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 7/21/11 12:08 PM

RE: Possibly an odd question re: duration of practice

Posts: 155 Join Date: 7/13/11 Recent Posts
Wow Ian, thanks so much!

I generally sit for at least 40 minutes -- that's been my "bare minimum" for a while now. However, lately some strong emotional issues surfaced, and it's been hard for me to find the determination to sit. Generally speaking though, I seem to rather skip a sit than shorten the duration of my sit (which I actually think is healthy).

I think I'm gonna go with a 40 - 45 minute ballpark to start with, and just "stick to it through thick-and-thin." If there's the desire to increase the duration, then I'll just continue sitting even when the alarm goes off (or set a second alarm to go off in an hour).

I do tend to over-analyze things, and I just think I have poor compensatory mechanisms in place to account for that. I have the intention -- and am trying -- to work on that aspect.

Also, I think that my mind may be so busy that it actually takes me around 40 minutes to calm down enough to enter "absorption." So out of necessity, I may have to really determine to sit for an hour, but make 40 the bare minimum (otherwise I would've spent all that time merely stilling the mind and not actually deriving the benefits of concentration states).

Can't wait to put my intelligence to good use rather than merely "spinning my wheels."

Rashed

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