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Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits

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Say that right now the length of your current longest sit is X minutes, and you would like to increase it to Y minutes. How would you proceed? Some strategies off the top of my head:

1) Be gentle with yourself. Resolve to sit for as long as you can, without trying to stick to any kind of fixed plan.

2) Make a plan. Increase gradually following a schedule. Say add 1 minute a day, or 15 minutes a week, or something like that.

3) Harcore purification work. Immediately start sitting for Y minutes, even if it means bumping it up from (say) 30 minutes to (say) 2 hours. Resolve to only get up if it looks like you are about to go crazy, then brave through that too.

4) Merge multiple sits. Make individual sits of the length you are currently able to sit comfortably for, with breaks in between for stretching. Gradually make the breaks shorter and shorter until the individual sits merge into one.

5) Work the cycle to your advantage. Wait for your current practice cycle to be at a good, solid equanimity point, where longer sitting is naturally more sustainable, and only then apply one of the above plans.

6) Sit for a predetermined amount of time with the intention to remain after the timer for an undetermined amount of time. [From rik's comment below]

7) Consider if  the limiting factor to your sit length is mental or physical in nature. If it is physical, consider a more comfortable posture. [From Hew's comment below]

Did you try any of these? Or anything else? What worked best for you? What worked worst for you? Which would you recommend?

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/20/18 1:50 PM as a reply to neko.
When I had first begun meditating I found the gentle increase per sit to be effective.  I went into it very slowly starting at 1 min, and adding a minute each time I was able to complete the session without checking the timer.

Once someone has more experience I think that there is a lot that can be explored when trying out dramatic increases in duration.  So IMO #3 is useful but could be very discouraging for someone new who is struggling with facing the chaotic state of their thoughts for the first time.

Something else that I don't think is completely covered by your list is that I'll sit for a predetermined amount of time with the intention to remain after the timer for an undetermined amount of time.  

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/20/18 1:26 PM as a reply to rik.
What sort of values for X and Y are you considering?
If X is less than 20 minutes or so 1 seems like an attractive route.
If X is in the 20-30 minutes range option 2 seems like an optimal strategy
If X is between 60 and 90 minutes, I've found that progress comes through multiple seated meditation sits broken up by walking meditation.

Progress for me can come shortly after meditation as often as during and I try to embrace this despite wanting to push my ability to concentrate longer. 

I also find it valuable to use shorter sessions to push my concentration to be more intense rather than longer. 

I also begin to notice that on some days a certain amount of time feels very comfortable and therefore extend sessions longer and on some days it is very difficult. Embracing this has gotten me much more progress than struggling against it. 

It is easy agonize over whether to sit for less time if that is indicated initially. It can be very difficult to take it easy on days when that is what is needed.

I also find it very helpful to think about whether on a given day I am challenged by my mental ability to sit for an extended period of time or the physical sensations of the body. My body is not very flexible so for longer sits I am seated in a chair or on taller cushions in order to strengthen my ability to concentrate. I work on my physical ability to sit through shorter cross legged sessions and a yoga/exercise practice that I keep mostly separate from my meditation. 

As eager to hear feedback on these thoughts as I am to share them. 

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/20/18 4:32 PM as a reply to neko.
To answer this we need to know what's keeping you from meditating for more than X minutes. And what X is.

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/20/18 6:15 PM as a reply to neko.
Reason with yourself:

Ask any awakened person: "did you get there sitting for X or Y". They'll all say, go for at least 45 minutes.  An hour is better.

You can sit and read a book for an hour, right?  You can sit in a car for an hour, right?  You can sit in a resturaunt for an hour, right?  You can sit in a movie theater for an hour, right? You can sit in a classroom for an hour, right?  You can sit in a hunter's blind for an hour, right?

Tis said: “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”.  Do your part to address the worlds problems.  Learn to sit (as if alone, quietly) for an hour.

Now, when starting to go for an hour, give yourself permission to:
  • pick out *any* cushions you want
  • shift your weight around as much as you want (but challenge yourself to stay still)
  • shift your legs around up to 3 times (but challenge yourself: if it's not numb, don't move it)
  • think of anything you want (but better to stick to exactly one thing: put your attention somewhere and keep it there)
Before every sit, decide how to change the cushions for the sit.  Then sit with confidence that it may be easier to get to an hour this time.

Recognize that the difficulty is with the mind, not the body, and the mind is your baby, you can shape it!  Recognize that people go through boot camp, they climb mountains, they have babies, they sit still for dentistry without novocain, they eat 75 hot dogs or 65 eggs, they learn to juggle, speak another language, beat tobaco, alcohol, heroine, 5 year olds learn to sit in a car seat for 2 hours straight!  Millions  can sit for an hour, at least hundreds of thousands are awakened and most of them think you should sit for at least 45 minutes.

Precaution: if something is getting numb, figure out how to fix that.  Just sit in a chair if you have to.

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 2:11 AM as a reply to rik.
rik:
When I had first begun meditating I found the gentle increase per sit to be effective.  I went into it very slowly starting at 1 min, and adding a minute each time I was able to complete the session without checking the timer.


Very good idea to make (2) more gentle, thanks for sharing! emoticon


rik:
Once someone has more experience I think that there is a lot that can be explored when trying out dramatic increases in duration.  So IMO #3 is useful but could be very discouraging for someone new who is struggling with facing the chaotic state of their thoughts for the first time.

I agree. Before recommending #3 to anyone, I would make sure that they know what they are in for, and that it is at a point in their practice in which they would not "explode".



rik:
Something else that I don't think is completely covered by your list is that I'll sit for a predetermined amount of time with the intention to remain after the timer for an undetermined amount of time.  
Nice idea! I will add it to the list emoticon

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 2:32 AM as a reply to Hew.
Welcome, Hew emoticon

Hew:
What sort of values for X and Y are you considering?


All of them! For the sake of discussion, let's say X and Y between 5 minutes and 4 hours. So you might be dealing with a student that wants to go from 10 to 30 minutes, or with a meditation bro that wants to go from 60 minutes to 4 hours, or any other possibility.

Hew:

If X is less than 20 minutes or so 1 seems like an attractive route.
If X is in the 20-30 minutes range option 2 seems like an optimal strategy
If X is between 60 and 90 minutes, I've found that progress comes through multiple seated meditation sits broken up by walking meditation.

If someone did want to go above the 90 minutes mark, how would you do that? I would say that #5, right point in the cycle, is the best strategy for that, but I am curious what would happen if someone deep in the dukkhananas forced himself to jump from 45 minutes to 2 hours while doing dry insight 
emoticon 



Hew:
I also find it very helpful to think about whether on a given day I am challenged by my mental ability to sit for an extended period of time or the physical sensations of the body.


Nice, I will add this to the list!

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 2:39 AM as a reply to Hew.
Clarification: Mine was a general question, not one about myself specifically. If I had wanted a specific answer for my own specific needs and goals, I would have given details about my own practice, current sitting times, goals, obstacles to sitting for longer, and so on.

Also, some of you gave reasons why sitting for longer might not be necessary above a certain time mark, and one can progress without sitting for longer than that. I agree. However, for the sake of discussion, let us assume that we are dealing with a legitimate reason to sit for longer times, e.g. bragging rights, or because a certain teacher says that if you cannot sit for 4 hours straight in hard jhana you are a worthless piece of shit meditator.

emoticon

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 3:07 AM as a reply to neko.
neko:
Say that right now the length of your current longest sit is X minutes, and you would like to increase it to Y minutes. How would you proceed? Some strategies off the top of my head:

5) Work the cycle to your advantage. Wait for your current practice cycle to be at a good, solid equanimity point, where longer sitting is naturally more sustainable, and only then apply one of the above plans.

6) Sit for a predetermined amount of time with the intention to remain after the timer for an undetermined amount of time. [From rik's comment below]

Did you try any of these? Or anything else? What worked best for you? What worked worst for you? Which would you recommend?
I reckon I did something like 5 and 6 together, which was more like finding that I felt I should sit longer after the bell, and then I think I looked at the clock and thought something like "Ooh, that was long, maybe I should do that again." Then pride being what it is, I couldn't really let myself reduce the times. I think eventually I increased the sit from 60 to 90 minutes, and then tried 120 minutes, although I had probably sat for that long once or twice after the bell.

The main if not only hindrance I had to sitting longer was pain in my hip and knee, and since I was noting, I continued to note the pain. That was probably the biggest thing in sitting longer.

To be honest though, I haven't quite figured out how to organise the lengths of my sits, I prefer to longer rather than less and generally sit for as long as I have time for. But as some mention, there is value in shorter sits, and I would like to figure out how to do balance them.

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 7:04 AM as a reply to neko.
Thanks for the welcome, I'm glad to have found this community.

Multiple other reply's say this more clearly but the reason to ask what value of X is simply because different strategies are better for different X's

I don't have much experience beyond the 90 minute mark for a sit, but I would say that I find it easy to get frustrated with my self when I try to extend the length of my meditation and find my mind wandering or begin to wonder if I'm hurting my back or knees physically because of what the sensations are telling me. 

I try to embrace the fact that I'm challenging myself and shouldn't expect a longer sit to be perfect yet, just longer, and the full concentration will come after I am able to sit that long at all. 

Additionally, I find it easy to discount walking standing and prone meditation but I wonder whether this more because my mental image of meditation is someone sitting in lotus position with a chakra drawn over their abdomen somewhere, rather than becuase there isn't progress available if I'm not seated with my legs folded a particular way.  

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 7:13 AM as a reply to Hew.
Simply resolving to do so. The stronger the better. Leave no choice for the mind to wiggle, make it stern and it will not whimper much.

I have been getting true beginners to go from their 10 minute try-out sessions straight to 60 without offering a choice and they have mostly gone through well. Within 3 days they are bumped up to 90 or 120, depending on need/progress. When the mind isn't given a choice, it will rise up to the task, it very well knows resisting and not getting off is the worst suffering.

I've just had a guy here presumably in 3rd nana who just oversat his 90 minute sit as I have turned off the alarm, didn't see him flinch during the sit but he did bitch about the pain afterwards. emoticon

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 10:38 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
Simply resolving to do so. The stronger the better. Leave no choice for the mind to wiggle, make it stern and it will not whimper much.

I have been getting true beginners to go from their 10 minute try-out sessions straight to 60 without offering a choice and they have mostly gone through well. Within 3 days they are bumped up to 90 or 120, depending on need/progress. When the mind isn't given a choice, it will rise up to the task, it very well knows resisting and not getting off is the worst suffering.

I've just had a guy here presumably in 3rd nana who just oversat his 90 minute sit as I have turned off the alarm, didn't see him flinch during the sit but he did bitch about the pain afterwards. emoticon


This is in a retreat setting, right?

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/21/18 4:40 PM as a reply to neko.
Yeah, people who come up to the mountain for a day or more... emoticon

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/22/18 11:17 AM as a reply to junglist.
i started with and 45 min then added 1 min per MONTH.

now i go much more super easy.


my trick is to sit REALLY CONFORTABLE WITHOUT PAIN. (leather couch)

got traumatized with knee/leg/back  pain while  zazen zafu sitting. lol   emoticon

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/24/18 8:09 PM as a reply to neko.
Trying to enjoy pleasure of the breath and spread it throughout the body. Keep the consistency. The brain gets tired of brunt force.

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/25/18 10:43 AM as a reply to neko.
In Seattle we sometimes do "Shaktipatlucks" on the weekend.  The name is a play on the terms "Shaktipat" (direct energy transmission between ppl) & "Potluck" (everyone brings their own stuff to the mix).  We typically alternate sitting & walking for a total of 4 to 7 hours of practice time.  It is nice to sit with a group of ppl who all have the Pragmatic Dharma mindset.

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
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1/25/18 1:14 PM as a reply to Noah D.
That sounds fun!

RE: Strategies for increasing the length of individual sits
Answer
1/25/18 7:04 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Sounds wonderful! Any physical contact experiments or shaktipat discoveries? emoticon