One of the most common questions that got asked around a lot when people who meditate get together is how much do you meditate each day. The most common answer, which I consider the textbook answer, is 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes before dinner or before sleep, which means a total of 40 minutes a day. Although I said that this is the textbook answer, this is the answer I don’t live by. I only meditate for 10 minutes a day in the morning and this habit has worked wonderfully for me. Here’s why I love to stick to the 10-minute-a-day habit and why I think it works so well.
Consistency of Meditation is More Important than Length
First, I will love to clarifying that I believe it will work better if I meditate 20 minutes AM, and 20 minutes PM each day, my mind would be even more clear. However, that’s assuming that I can fit these 40 minutes into my daily schedule easier. For me and for many other people, taking 40 minutes each day to meditate is not something that they can fit into their daily schedule consistently. That can easily mean that you will meditate 40 minutes in a holiday and meditate 0 minute on a busy day. Now, if we make the commitment to spend 10 minutes on meditation each day, I think we can all do it. It’s just 10 minutes afterall.
The Power of Mini Habit
Not everyone is built with really strong will. In fact, even for people that are born with strong will power, there are studies that show that will power is something that you can use up during the day. Anyway, the point I want to make here is that a lot of people cannot stick to a 20 minute or 40 minute daily meditation habit. It is actually too big of a habit to develop for many people who don’t have enough will power. To make achieving our goals more easy, we have to develop mini habits. For example, when you want to develop the habit of meditate 10 minutes a day, you can kind of force yourself to do it for a couple of weeks since it is not too big of a task and you should have enough will power to do that. The magic comes a few weeks, or for some people months, later. When you have done it for a long enough time, the habit begins to develop. You begin to find it easy and natural to do the 10-minute meditation that you once needed to force yourself to do. In summary, first, you need to turn your daily meditation into a habit. Second, if you set your goal to be too high like 40 minutes a day, you may not have enough will power to force yourself to stick to your plan. Since you will have a hard time doing that for weeks, meditation has never got a chance to become your habit.
When to Do the 10 Minute Meditation?
As I have touched on a little earlier in this piece of writing, will power is a finite thing. To apply this theory to our life, we should do things that are more important first during the day when we have a high level of will power. In other words, do the most important thing the first thing in the morning, second most important thing right after, etc. I don’t think meditation is the most important thing to do. I like to do it right after I finish my most important task. Generally speaking, I do it around 2 hours after I wake up. I have another argument that also suggests that meditating the first thing in the morning is a wasteful way to spend time. The reason is that I usually have a clear enough mind right after I wake up. There is no need to further clear my mind yet. Meditating after finishing an important 2-hour task is perfect since my mind is a little unclear at that point.
I Practice Mantra Meditation Yet Many Other Types Work Well Too
Just for sharing, I practice mantra meditation. It’s not that breath meditation or mindful meditation does’t work. It just feel that mantra meditation does work better for me. In other words, I find it easier to fall into the half-asleep mode when I do mantra meditation compared to when I do breath meditation. For those of you who are not sure what the mantra meditation is, I will just briefly describe it here. First, go to a silent place and sit in a relaxed position with your eyes closed. You don’t necessarily have to sit on the floor with your legs crossed. For myself, I find it easier to sit on a chair or on a sofa. Then I begin to repeatedly read a two-syllable mantra like “so-hum” in my mind. Very soon, I will fall into the half-asleep mode where my mantra reading would naturally stop. Once I realize the mantra reading has been stopped, I start reading the mantra again. I repeat that process for 10 minutes and I usually end up with a clear mind that allows me to see things more rationally and clearly.
It’s Not Always the More the Better
While we know monks can meditate for hours everyday, it is not a good idea for us to do that. In fact, I would make 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon the maximum amount of meditation for most people. For myself, I can actually experience some headache when I meditate for 30 minutes or more in one session. I do believe that I can gradually increase my limit but I don’t see the point of doing so. Remember, all you are trying to achieve with meditation is to reset your mind and make it clear. If 10 minutes of meditation a day can clear your mind, any extra time will have diminishing returns anyway.
In conclusion, I think that meditate only 10 minutes a day is both practical and effective. Also, I recommend you to do that in the morning. I prefer to do it around two hours after I wake up, right after finishing an important task.