For a lot of meditation beginners or even for some experienced meditation practitioner, they have the question of how long they should mediate. First, you have to know that meditation is not an exact science where you will get a textbook answer. Yet, a close-to-textbook answer is often useful and we have to know what can probably benefit us and what would hurt us. And you have to remember that the it is more important to protect yourself from getting harmed than to gain benefit. One of the wisest men on earth Charlie Munger, one of the best investors in the history, has said that it is more important to be not stupid than to be brilliant. So, let’s talk about how to apply that concept to meditation and explore the ideal lengths for meditation.
Can I Meditate 10, or Even 5 Minutes Only a Day?
Although many people would advise more, I would argue that 5 to 10 minutes of meditation a day, preferably but not necessarily in the morning, is very ideal for many people. I think it is the best is because only spend 5 to 10 minutes can make it very easy to fit meditation into your schedule. If you can’t do something everyday, it can be very difficult to make that your habit. Meditation is something that can really help you clear your mind if you can do it every single day, even for a very short amount of time. The only cost of meditating too little is that you don’t have your mind as clear as you may get with a longer meditation session and that is completely okay as perfect and precision don’t really matter as much as consistency.
Can I Meditate Too Much?
The short answer is yes, you can definitely mediate too much and you should not risk it. First of all, there are all sorts of different types of meditation. Some focus on your breath, some focus on thoughts and some focus on mantras and there are a lot of other ways. So, it is not fair to say you must not meditate over a certain period of time, as you may be using a different method of meditation and your mind and my mind work differently. From my own experience, meditating too much can cause headache. For myself, the headache starts about 40 minutes of meditation and that can be different for everyone.
Stick to One to Two 20-Minute Meditation Sessions a Day
Meditating twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon or at night, and making each time a 20-minute session is probably the best close-to-textbook answer that you can find in the website. Although the true answer is “it depends” but that wouldn’t be really useful. So, let’s talk about why 20 minutes. In my humble opinions, I think 20 minutes of meditation is usually enough to clear your mind. Another additional meditation wouldn’t give you too much benefit. That’s like the law of diminishing returns in economics. The 80/20 rule also applies here. Let say 20 minutes or meditation can already help make your mind 80% clear. Why risk getting headache or other possible harmful events by trying to clear the remaining 20% of your mind.
Meditate Once a Day of Twice a Day?
I found that being able to mediate once (20 minute) in the morning and once before dinner gives me the best result. The result is that I need my mind to be as sharp and clear as possible when I start my day. I also need to reset my mind after work before dinner so I don’t carry any negative emotions that I may have picked up subconsciously during my work day. But in reality, I found it easier to develop the habit of meditate 10 minutes only in the morning and skip the afternoon section. That does work a lot better for my schedule and I believe it does for a lot of people too. I found my current amount of meditation to be good enough though not optimal. I am happy with this consistent habit that I have developed.
What Do Monks Meditate for Hours?
First of all, these monks don’t just one day decided to meditate for four hours straight then they are able to do that on day one. It is a gradual progress. Secondly, they understand what they are doing and they are not rushing. In order words, if you experience some headache after 40 minutes of meditation. Some would stop, like what I did, which is good while some would be choose to ignore the headache and proceed. I am sure that the monks know their circle of competence well enough to gradually expand their length of meditation and wouldn’t force anything if it hurts. Although I believe that many people can be trained to be meditate for a longer period of time, I don’t really think it is of any significant benefit. Afterall, meditation is just a method to get yourself go back to the calm state and reduce your anxiety.
What Should I Do if I Skipped a Day or Even More?
Remember the purpose and benefit of meditation. It is to make your mind quiet and calm. It is like hitting the reset button of your mind so you can operate in a more efficient mode. That would help you to reduce your change of making bad decisions especially those decisions that are driven by your ego. So if you just for some reason didn’t meditate yesterday, you can’t gain that opportunity back yet you don’t have to punish yourself. Just meditate like you would normally do today. Don’t make up that meditation session by doing an extra one today. Meditation don’t work like that.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid of meditating too little and don’t fall in trap of thinking the longer you meditate the better. As a simple rule that works pretty work of a lot of people, those that want to meditate more can have a 20-minute session in the morning and one 20-minute session in the afternoon or at night. For those of you who just want to keep things simple and easy like me, you can just meditate for 10 minutes in the morning each day.