Finding the Best Time of Day to Meditate
Finding the best time to meditate can be difficult. We try sitting at different times during our days, but struggle to find what works best for us. The truth is that there isn’t one single time that necessarily works for everyone. We must investigate for ourselves. When we are new to mindfulness practice, we may have to try new things in order to discover what is beneficial for us in our practice. Here are a few different times you can try meditating, along with some possible pros and cons with each.
When to Meditate
Like many other aspects of the path, we have to find what works for ourselves when it comes to choosing a time to practice. Allow yourself some freedom to investigate, and try different periods during the day to see what is useful for you. Here are a few different times you may consider, and how they may support your meditation practice.
Meditating in the Morning
Many people like to sit in the morning, and this is my personal favorite time to sit. It may not be the best time of day to meditate for everyone, so investigate for yourself! Meditating in the morning is a great way to start the day, and can help us to build a foundation of mindfulness and compassion from the beginning. Personally, I find that sitting in the morning helps me have a day with more awareness, and I can return to presence more easily throughout my day. You may also find that a period of morning meditation can help you to prioritize your practice and make time for it. If you set the intention to sit right when you wake up, you can get your meditation done before the day gets going and you forget.
The downside here is that many people struggle with sleepiness early in the day. When we wake up, the mind may take a few minutes to catch up with the fact that we are now awake! Listening to a guided meditation may help with this, or you can perhaps try some walking meditation. Some people don’t experience this difficulty with sleepiness, and actually find that the mind is unfettered by the day’s chaos in the morning, leading to an ease to their practice. Out of the students I work one-on-one with, most find the best time of day to meditate to be the morning
The Afternoon Meditation
Sitting in the afternoon or on a lunch break is a great way to ground yourself during your day. If you have the opportunity to meditate in the middle of the day, it definitely is worth trying. Many of us go on autopilot or into “work mode” as the day goes on. An afternoon sit can help us to return to our intention of cultivating mindfulness and compassion, helping us to return to our practice. I find that when I sit for a few minutes in the afternoon, it makes the rest of my day a little more ease-ful. When I don’t sit, I can get on a roll of stress and chaos. Even if you just block out five minutes, you can really re-center yourself. For many, this is the best time of day to meditate to bring themselves back to mindfulness throughout the day.
Of course its possible that you may not be able to find a few minutes in the afternoon, and this is a definite potential downside. We hold an afternoon meditation at our meditation center in Petaluma, and our students often share they have difficulty breaking up the day with meditation. When we come from a hectic morning and are returning to a hectic afternoon, the break of meditation may just be filled with thinking. Although this may be especially difficult for beginners, it’s actually something we can learn to work with. We can observe the thoughts and mental states, learning to respond with some patience and equanimity.
Meditating at night is a popular choice, and many people find it to be most useful for themselves. Meditation can help us wind down, relax, and settle in at the end of our days. Many people listen to guided meditations to fall asleep, and find that meditation helps them fall and stay asleep. Sometimes, when the day is winding down, we can settle into practice more easily. We don’t have things to do at night, so the mind may be able to rest in the present time experience with more ease. Often, the evening is a period in which we have some available time to meditate.
When you meditate at night, you may be met with a few things. First, the hindrance of sleepiness may arise. When you close your eyes and it is dark outside, the mind may think it is bedtime! Usually when you are silent with your eyes closed at night, you’re going to sleep. The brain associates these conditions with sleep, and may fall into a tired state with ease. The mind may also go over the day incessantly, and you may find yourself running over the experiences of the day. If this happens, it’s something to notice and work with, not push away or deny.
Meditating briefly during your day is another great way to go. The purpose of meditation is not just to develop insight in our actual practice, but to help us develop wisdom in our daily lives. We can pause for a few moments to practice. When I go somewhere, especially to work, I often take a few minutes to meditate in my car before going in to engage with people. This helps me show up more fully with mindfulness and care. You can pause at any point and meditate for a few minutes during your day to return to your practice. You don’t need to set a specific time if you don’t want. Investigate when works for you and what your experience is sitting during your day!
The Impulse Meditation
One practice that helps me is meditating during the day when I feel like it. I know that sounds rather simple or obvious, but it is more difficult than it sounds. When you have the thought of meditating during your day, or feel like you might need a moment of mindfulness, stop and practice! Whether we need to let go of anger or pause during the chaos of everyday life, the quick meditation during the day can work wonders. I work from home on some days, and when I feel like meditating in the middle of the day, I will stop and do it. Rather than talking myself out of meditating, I’ve learned to listen to the impulse and do it. I recommend trying this if you’re able!
As a beginner to meditation, you may need some time to build a habit. You can try these different times, but I recommend trying one time for a week straight to see how it works. In order to find what works for you, it is going to take some consistency. There are many factors at play in our meditation practice, so finding the best time isn’t as simple as trying once. We may have an unpleasant sit for many reasons, not just the time of day it is when we are meditating. You can listen to some guided meditation CD’s every morning for a week, go to meditation groups regularly at night, or set a reminder to sit at the same time every day!
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