So you’ve taken up a meditation practice, maybe listened to some guided meditations, and started investigating mindfulness. However, you don’t know how long to meditate when you practice. One of the most common questions we receive is how long should you meditate for in a session, and how long it takes to see the benefits of practice.
These are not simple questions to answer, and there frankly isn’t a set time that works for everyone. Although it definitely takes time to see the benefits of meditation practice, we can build a daily practice to help train the mind and heart.
How Long to Meditate at a Time
First, we have to look at how long to meditate in a single session. When we go on retreat, meditation periods are often thirty or forty-five minutes. This may be overwhelming if you’re new to meditation, as the mind and body are not capable of benefiting from such long sitting meditation. In our Daily Guided Meditations, we often offer meditations in the 10-25 range as this is much more approachable to those who are beginners to meditation practice.
We can investigate for ourselves what is useful. While some people may benefit from a thirty minute sit, others may find the most use in a five minute meditation. We can let go of comparison and ego, and really see what works for ourselves. IF you’re new to practice, a long period of meditation may just produce anxiety and stress.
One thing you can try with your practice is setting an intention for a time and giving it a shot. Set the intention to sit for ten minutes every day for a week, and see how it goes. Can you follow through with this intention? How does it feel to sit for ten minutes after a week? If it is working well for you, you can try adding a minute or two the next week, or just stick where you are!
As we continue to practice, we get to know the mind and body. We see where different meditation lengths serve us. Personally, I know that the mind really settles into practice well when I sit for 30 minutes at a time. If I stop at 15, the mind is less clear and not as settled. In order to calm the mind, we have to give ourselves time.
Tune into your own experience in meditation. Maybe the mind settles relatively quickly, or maybe it takes a few minutes. As the mind collects itself and we’re able to concentrate, we can see our experience more clearly. This concentration can take some time, which is why many people like sitting for 30 or 45 minutes.
When I sit for ten minutes, I get a lot out of it. However, the mind is just beginning to truly settle. With longer sits, we’re faced with the opportunity to work with a calm mind, the difficulties in the mind and body that arise in longer periods, and dive a little deeper. However, we cannot jump right into this, and instead can benefit from investigating shorter meditation periods to start.
Seeing Results from Practice
Now, how long does it take to see the benefits of meditation practice? Working one-on-one with students, we’re often asked how long they need to meditate until they start feeling happier. It’s a valid question, and many people wonder similar things when new to practice. Like many other things that are practices, meditation takes some time.
It’s like going go the gym. The first few times we go we end up feeling sore, seeing little or no progress, and doubting ourselves and the gym. Over time and with repetition, we slowly grow stronger and see the changes begin to take shape. Meditation is like a gym for the mental muscle.
When we first start meditating, we may just struggle, experience some anxiety, struggles with the mind, or physical pain. This is normal, and part of the practice. If the mind was already perfectly concentrated, we wouldn’t need meditation practice!
As Medical Daily points out, meditation practice can take some time to really develop and show benefits. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, with continued practice we can train the mind to settle down. This is why we practice.
Many people get discouraged when they begin meditating and find that the mind wanders quite a bit. Known as papanca, the wandering mind is a normal part of practice. As we continue to meditate, we can learn to work with the thinking mind and settle into some concentration and mindfulness.
I recommend trying to meditate regularly, seeing where it gets you. We cannot just sit once and expect to see the many benefits of meditation practice. If you’re asking yourself how long you should meditate to see growth, start by building a daily practice!
Building a Regular Practice
Although not directly related to the question of how long we should meditate for, building a daily practice is an important thing to do for ourselves. In my personal experience, meditating for ten minutes a day is more beneficial than meditating for 45 minutes once a week. The continuity is key.
As we sit in meditation regularly, we get several benefits. First, we build a habit. If we sit in the morning every day, we will eventually do so out of habit and it will be easier to sit in practice. Instead of dragging ourselves to meditate, we will incorporate it into our days as a normal part of it.
When we sit regularly, we also allow our practice to build. It’s like a snowball effect. Every day we meditate, we are training the mind more and more. This daily habit helps us really train the mind more effectively. It’s like going to the gym! If we go to the gym once a month for a couple of hours, we won’t see as many benefits as if we work out for ten minutes every day.
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