The Hour Comes Easily – My New, Consistent Meditation Practice
All of a sudden, I have a very regular meditation practice that I actually look forward to. It’s about 1 hour, first thing in the morning, 5-7 days a week.
Why is this great news and a bit surprising to me?
Because this is a major change from how my meditation used to be. I’ve tried to have a regular meditation practice for the last 3 years, and it’s mostly been an inconsistent and frustrating experience for me.
My goal was to meditate 10 minutes every day. You would think that would be easy, but the 10 minutes felt long and challenging. Instead of the meditation quieting my mind, I kept hearing brain chatter, and I would feel like a failure. That’s not exactly a dynamic that leads to regularity. On days that I did this awkward practice the best I could do is check the box that I had meditated that day.
Last year I was invited to meditate 20 minutes a day in a new program I was involved in. It provided specific instructions on how to meditate, so I was hopeful that would result in a breakthrough for me. Instead, 20 minutes was 2x the frustration and angst as 10 minutes. So, after 2-3 weeks of my best effort, I quit and went back to my previous, ineffective practice.
Needless to say, I didn’t experience any of the touted benefits of meditation during any of that.
Recently, I’ve been working with an Energy Coach who has made it clear that regular meditation was an essential element for the personal growth that I was looking for. I could have seen that one coming from a mile a way. It makes sense, right? I desired a quieter mind, a clearer sense of my purpose in this world, calmer emotions and more resilience as I navigate life’s events. And, frankly, I wanted more joy and happiness.
These are the very things (and lots more) that many studies have shown that meditation produces. So, it came as no surprise that meditation was a part of the work I needed to do. But, it wasn’t great news. She told me the goal was 1 hour a day, every day. I politely agreed to do my best. Internally, I screeched.
Then, a remarkable thing happened when I committed to a daily 1-hour period of meditation. Based on my previous experience, I realized that if I remained focused on the desired duration of meditation, which just shot up from 10 to 60 minutes, I would probably go insane.
So, my strategy for self-preservation was to focus, instead, on my experience during meditation, not the duration.
Ding, ding, ding! Hello shift.
By focusing on time, I had inadvertently made it the primary objective of my meditation. And, then, I became a slave to it.
With time as the objective, my predominant mindset was that meditation was something I needed to endure—not something to enjoy. Is it any wonder that I didn’t experience the benefits of meditation?
But now, the depth and richness of the experience is my primary objective and focus of my meditation.
I think of it more like an exploration. Like embarking on an adventure into myself. I decide ahead of time that I’m going to enjoy it and that I’m excited to go within and see what I can learn. I settle in, relax and expect that it will be awesome.
This was a major “flip your thoughts” experience for me relative to time. Since it’s something I enjoy, I want more of it not less of it. Now, if I think about meditating for 10 minutes, my brain would say “why only 10 minutes?” It would be like sitting down to watch a favorite show and limiting myself to 10 minutes. Why would I do that?
More about time …
When I started practicing meditation for 1 hour, another cool thing happened. It was a large enough chunk of time for the meditation to be effective. I hesitate to say it was enough time to “get it right,” but essentially that’s true.
Consider what it is we are trying to achieve when we meditate.
There are different kinds of meditation and different views about what it’s supposed to be. Most of the views agree that the intended target of meditation is our chatty inner roommate—our mind. Some say the objective is to silence our mind altogether and some say the goal is to simply quiet the mind to a less scattered, more peaceful and receptive state.
Either way, it can take a little time to achieve that. I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that some days quieting my mind can seem like herding cats. And, I guarantee you that if you place a very short time limit on successfully herding cats, it doesn’t make it any easier.
When I only gave myself 10 minutes to meditate, the majority of the time I still hadn’t successfully quieted my busy mind. And, to compound that, I had given my mind the additional task of wondering about how much time was left!
In a 1-hour meditation session, sometimes it takes longer to quiet my mind and sometimes it takes less time to quiet it. The beauty is, that it no longer matters if it takes more or less time. And, it’s really after I achieve a quiet mind that the true benefits of meditation begin.
So, while the duration of meditation shouldn’t be the primary objective, it does have some practical implications.
A great analogy is exercise. Let’s say your objective for a period of exercise is to burn 500 calories. If you proclaim that you only want to spend 10 minutes doing it, then you will probably not be successful.
Similarly, if you want meditation to be a deep and meaningful practice that opens up a world of benefits to you, it may take a little time to achieve that.
My advice for a more consistent and effective meditation practice?
Set a target duration for your meditation sessions where time is no longer the focus. Try 1 hour. You could be surprised. It just might come easy to you, too.