There is a very common question about meditation that I think is a very important question. The question is: how often should I do meditation? The reason why I think this question is important is that it is often answered incorrectly. In my opinion, it is sometimes even answered dangerously incorrectly. That’s why I want to devote this blog post to answer and explain this particular question as throughly as possible. If you are one of the people who think you can mediate as often as you like, you shoulder really read this blog post.
“The More The Better” is Very Incorrect
When the question of “how often should I meditate” got asked, there are two responses that I hear the most. “The more the better” and “as often as you need” are the two common answers. Yet, both answers are totally wrong. You know and I know that meditation is good for you. Think of meditation as a very healthy food, like apple. Do you think that eating one apple a day is good? How about two? Now, how about ten? I think it is safe to bet that you would consider eating ten apples a day is bad, although there is no argument that apple is a very healthy food. Meditation is very much like apple. There is no doubt that having one session of meditation for around 20 minutes a day is good. Having two 20-minute daily session is great. Have 10 is wrong.
Remembering Why You Want to Meditate
There is only one main purpose of meditation. It is to clear your mind. You have to remember that. If you can clear your mind meditating once a day, make it once a day. If you mind gets cloudy in the afternoon, doing another session before it gets cloudy. Everyone has different needs and requires different amount of meditation to clear their mind. You really have to do the trial-and-error part yourself and it may last for as long as weeks before you find out your optimal frequency. Sometimes, the final answer may surprise you a little bit. For example, for me, I only require around 10 minutes of meditation each morning to make my mind clear. Of course I can make the session a little longer and do another session in the afternoon. Yet, I don’t find it necessary and why waste time doing things that don’t give us extra return.
The Textbook Answer of How Often
To experience the frequency and amount of meditation that is optimal to you, it is a good idea to have a textbook idea to start with. The textbook answer of how often and how much to meditate is to meditate 2 times a day, one in the morning and one before dinner or before sleep, twenty minutes each. That’s the amount and frequency of meditation recommended by a lot of people including the famous investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio. Don’t take the textbook answer as the final answer though since meditation is never an exact science. You want to adjust the amount and frequency and suit your need of clearing your own mind effectively. Rather than adjusting up, I would tend to recommend you to adjust down. I will tell you more about why a little later.
Why Too Much Meditation is Not Good for You
As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to eat 10 apples a day. Likewise, you don’t want to meditate ten times a day. It seems like monks can meditate for hours a day and you may think that “the more the better”. However, most of us are not like monks and it would be idiotic for us to compare us to monks. That’s like comparing yourself to Michael Jordan when playing basketball and expecting yourself to be able to slam dunk. For us average meditators, there are limits to the amount of meditation we do. There are two main reasons why you want to watch out for not exceeding your limit.
Reason #1: Too Much Meditation Can Cause Headache
Meditation is like apples. Apples are great for our health but too much apples give us too much sugar. Meditation can clear your mind if you don’t do too much of it. For me, when I approach the 40 minute to 45 minute mark, I start feeling headache. Like all things in life, balance is the keyword. It usually takes you 10 to 20 minutes of meditation to make your mind clear. You may feel that you can make your mind even more crystal clear by meditating more, but you just can’t. Remember the 80/20 rule, you should only strive for having your mind 80% clear and 20 minutes of meditation can give you just that. Since I start having headache when I approach the 40 minute mark, I almost never go beyond 30 minutes of meditation for one session to make it safe. In terms of how often to meditate, I would say one time to two times are both good. I like to do it only in the morning as I feel that it is sufficient to make myself perform with a clear mind for the rest of the day.
Reason #2: Eating Too Many Apples Leave Very Little Room for Eating Other Things
The second and sometimes overlooked reason for not meditating too much is that you want to leave space in your schedule to do other things. It is like you may think that eating three apples a day is good for you, but eating one apple, one orange and a bowl of oatmeal instead may give you a more balanced diet. If one session of 20-minute meditation is enough to make your mind clear, why do you want to do another session of 30-minute meditation in the afternoon. How about replacing that with reading a good book for 30 minutes. Having said that, you don’t want to replace your meditation with unhealthy activities like watching some bad TV shows because that type of activity can make your mind muddy which kind of wasted your effort of meditation. If you have some space of your schedule that you don’t know how to fill, I highly recommend you to read good books and have some long walks. Both are great foods to your mind.