In the past years, there is a new and very interesting question that get asked more and more people. The question is: Why the best length of meditation is 20 minutes? I think the even more interesting thing to look at here is why did that become a common question. Why not 5 minute, 10 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Let’s start with the origin of such interesting question.
The Origin of 20-minute Meditation
Although I can’t be 100% sure about why the 20-minute-of-meditation recommendation got so popular, I think I have an answer that is likely going to be right. At least that’s where I got my recommendation of meditating for 20 minutes. First, how did meditation, as a small niche, got so popular over the years? It mainly got so popular because more and more famous authors and celebrity mention them publicly. In the second half of 2017, there is yet another big increase in the popularity of meditation. Someone wrote a great book. I would even go as far as saying it one of the best books. It can be viewed as a business book, a philosophy book or even a self-help book. That amazing book is called Principle and that amazing someone who wrote the book is Ray Dalio, the famous investor that some believe would surpass Warren Buffett in the future. As the book is published, Ray Dalio has participated in many interviews and talks as part of the book tour. He has consistently been asked what is the single most thing that has helped him succeed. He said that meditation was probably the most important thing or tool that has helped him succeed. And in some of the interviews, he said that he usually do 2 sessions of meditation every day, and 20 minutes of meditation for each session. When someone wildly successful like Ray Dalio say something that specific about meditation, things spread really fast. He has actually made “meditate” as one of the principles he has mentioned in his beloved book. Ray Dalio may have got that 20-minute-meditation advise from his meditation mentor, but he is the one who has made it so popular.
Is 20 Minutes of Meditation Actually Good?
The actual length of meditation can be a very subjective thing. You have to keep that in mind while I am only speaking from my own experience. For me, the length of meditation for each session cannot exceed 40 minutes, or I will have a headache. What do monks meditate for so long then, you may ask. I have no idea and I really don’t care about someone else feel about meditating for hours. All I know is that the headache is real for me. So, to be safe, I usually make 30 minutes the maximum amount of meditating I would do in each session. Now, I have my ceiling and it’s about time to find out the floor, the minimum amount of meditation. How do I find out the minimal amount of meditation? The answer is to find out how little meditation can help myself clear my mind. Yes, the most important thing I should care about meditation is how it can help me clear my mind. So, I tried 5 minutes. Surprisingly, it does clear my mind quite well every once in a while. It does always clear my mind enough especially when my thoughts are kind of messy. Then I tried 10 minutes. It does make my mind clear most of the time except for some extreme cases. It is really meditating for 15 to 20 minutes that can almost make my mind clear almost all the time.
Is 20 Minutes of Meditation the Approach I Stick To?
As mentioned, I found that 10 minutes of meditation is usually pretty good in making my mind clear. I would say that it can successfully make my mind clear enough 80% of the case which I consider good enough, especially that I am a big believer of the 80-20 rule. Having said that, I do think that 20 minutes may be better for a lot of people. By the way, instead of meditating 2 times a day, one in the morning, and one before dinner or before sleep, I only meditate in the morning. I like the idea of being good enough and I don’t want to push myself to a point where I would simply feel too difficult and stop meditating everyday. I like to compare meditating with jogging. To keep yourself in a relatively good shape, it is better to jog for 20 minutes a day, everyday, than to jog for 2 hours every Sunday. Trust me, your body are not going to like it. Even worse, your Monday to Saturday routine of not having exercise is going to make it very difficult to make you go out and jog every Sunday, especially when the Sunday is so cold and wet. By doing something consistently everyday, over time, you no longer need much will power to do it. That’s the magic of developing good habits.
Use 20 Minutes as a No-Brainer Default Length and Adjust from There
Like many things in life, you are not going to have the exact same answer as your friends but your answers are often not that far away from each other. I would highly recommend you to use the 2 times a day, 20 minutes each guideline as your starting point of meditation if you are at a stage of figuring out your best routine. Then you can adjust from there. I would actually recommend you to adjust down the minutes like me but you can definitely do some trial and error and adjust up if you like to. How do you know whether you have found your optimal routine? Remember that meditation is not exact science. The way to find out is to ask yourself whether you have cleared your mind effectively. When you mind is clear, you can see things as they are which means that you can see things closer to the reality. Another way to check is to observe whether your emotion fluctuates a lot. With a clear and calm mind, you wouldn’t get angry as easily. If you find yourself being able to stay calm most of the time, it is a sign that you may have found your optimal meditation routine.