Just how many times should I meditate every day? That’s a common question that most of us have when we’re starting out with meditation. I also wondered the same, and after reading several books and asking the experts themselves, I believe I’m in a good position to answer this question.
If you’re doing simple meditation like focusing on your breath or mantra recitation, you can meditate as many times as you want per day. In the beginning, it is more beneficial to have multiple brief meditation sessions rather than a single long one.
Saying as many times as you want doesn’t really help. So, let’s go into the specifics of the question. We’ll consider the opinions of the experts, and if you’re looking for a good starting point, we’ll also look at that.
Make it count
I can meditate as many times as I want, but there’s no point in increasing the length of my sessions if the quality isn’t there. It won’t yield any greater results. Earlier I may be doing 30 minutes of bad meditation, and then I’d be doing two hours of it. So, the most important thing in my practice is to make the sessions count. I want to make sure that if I meditate for 10 minutes, I put all of my efforts into it.
The same goes for frequency, if I meditate for 10 minutes 10 times a day, I must make sure I try to maintain my mindfulness as best as I can and meditate with proper technique in all of my sessions. It is much better to meditate with all of our attention and cultivate mindfulness in those 10 sessions than to sit like a statue wondering when the session will end. (We’ve all done that!)
For us as beginners, quality meditation doesn’t translate to having fewer thoughts or being able to maintain mindfulness throughout the entire session. That kind of quality will only come when we increase the quantity of our practice. For a novice meditator, quality meditation means having proper technique – proper posture, perseverance, method, and consistency.
Like most things in life, the principle of quality > quality also applies to meditation. So, whether you meditate two times a day or five times a day, the most important part of your practice is to maintain the quality of your sessions, i.e. have proper technique and put all your effort into it.
Where to start
So, now you know what quality is and how you need to maintain the quality while you increase the quantity. But if you’re just starting out with meditation, how much time should you devote to it?
A good point to start would be five minutes twice a day – once in the morning and then again in the evening or before you go to sleep. From there, there are multiple ways you can go about scaling it up. You can add five minutes every week or a minute every day. Test it out and see what works.
Maybe 10 minutes a day is a bit too little for you. If that’s the case, feel free to increase the time. The key is to find a time length that feels achievable and keeps you feeling motivated. It won’t become a part of your daily routine without this. Remember that meditating too much, in the beginning, can also have negative effects. Not that meditation itself can be harmful, but you might not get it right in the beginning. So, it’s better to start small and build it up from there.
Researchers are trying to figure out the optimal time length for meditation. A recent study found that participants who did body-scan meditation for around 20 minutes a day reported that their happiness level had increased. They also noticed a decreased level of anxiety as compared to the participants who rested during the 20 minutes.
Bottom line? 5, 10, 20 – just pick whatever feels comfortable to you and gradually increase it.
Related: Are Meditation and Prayer the Same?
Build it up
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche explains in his book, The Joy of Living, that establishing a regular practice is the central point in meditation. If you’ve decided to meditate for 15 minutes a day, then it doesn’t matter whether you divide it into three sessions of five minutes each or five sessions of three minutes each.
We should approach our meditation practice as we would approach going to the gym. It is far better to work out 15 minutes than not stepping into the gym at all. Similarly, it is far better to meditate consistently even for 10-15 minutes a day than not meditating at all.
Another thing you’ll notice in the gym is that people have different capacities. Some people can lift fifty pounds, while others can lift only ten pounds. If you’re one of those who can only lift 10 pounds, then don’t even try to go for fifty. You’ll strain yourself up, and chances are, you’ll probably stop. Similarly, with meditation, don’t try to go beyond your personal limits.
Mingyur Rinpoche actually tells us to meditate less than we can. For example, he says that if I can meditate for five minutes, I should stop at four; if I can meditate for 15 minutes, I should stop at 12-13. That way, I will find myself eager to meditate again. Instead of trying to accomplish my goal of meditating x minutes per session or x sessions per day, I will be leaving myself wanting more.
Also read: Does Meditation make you happy?
Keep it steady
One of the difficulties beginner practitioners face is that we’re not able to hold the posture correctly. After a couple of minutes, we begin to feel pain in different parts of our body and all of our attention gets diverted.
Om Swami, a Himalayan Monk emphasizes correct posture in his book, A Million Thoughts. He says that correct posture doesn’t matter so much if you’re meditating to just feel better (and there’s nothing wrong with it). You could be lying on your back or standing on your head, it’s all just fine.
But on the other hand, if you’re looking upon meditation as something that’ll lead you into extraordinary bliss and supreme union, then it becomes critical to ensure that you are sitting still like a rock for whatever time you decide to meditate.
From my own experience, sitting like a rock for even five minutes is going to take you at least a week or two. There’ll be a pain in your neck, back, legs and other parts of your body. You won’t know if your back is truly straight or you’ve stretched it too much. You might forget to keep it straight and after three minutes of pure thinking, you straighten your back, realizing you’ve been just slouching there.
So, the bottom line is: Keep it short and steady. Don’t rush to increase the length of your sessions. It’ll happen naturally with sincere effort and determination. It would be much better if we meditate for 15 minutes with the correct posture than if we were to sit slouching for two hours.
Choose a time length that’s a bit challenging but doesn’t strain you, and start by doing it two times a day. Focus on proper technique, but don’t get too obsessed about doing it “right” either. Just learn the technique in its entirety and do it as best as you can. With correct practice, things will start to happen.
So it is that you can meditate as many times as you want as long as you maintain the quality of your sessions and build it gradually as we talked about above. And then hopefully, you’ll soon be able to extend your mindfulness into different aspects of your life outside of the formal meditation.
If you have any questions or want to share your thoughts, be sure to leave them in the comment section below. I’ll make sure to respond.
Good luck and happy meditating!