Now that you know how to sit for meditation, let's talk about frequency. How often do you need to meditate in order to reap the benefits?
Just like anything you want to get better at, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you get at doing it. If you want to take up running but you only manage to go for a jog once every couple of weeks, you may notice that you never really get faster or comfortable with it. You have to give yourself the chance to get started properly and get into the flow before you will notice any improvements. The runs will build on each other, strengthening your leg muscles, improving your endurance, overcoming mental blocks, and developing into a habit. In order for any of these things to happen through running, you need to do it consistently.
Same for meditating. Daily practice is the goal. I heard actor and long-time meditator Richard Gere say that for him meditation was as consistent as brushing his teeth. He will, without doubt, brush his teeth every day, as will he meditate. At least, I hope I am interpreting that correctly and he didn't mean he is rather inconsistent with his teeth brushing - ha! My guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, advises meditating twice per day - just upon waking and just before sleeping. I have to admit that although I can make it twice a day many days per week, there are some days where I finish my day still aspiring to make every day a twice-daily-meditation day.
I was listening to a talk the other day by a monk from Ananda, and he was suggesting a reason for the twice daily meditation that I hadn't considered before. He likened meditation to a dose of medicine. When you take medicine, it is time based - your body breaks it down and uses it within a given period of time. You need to get the next dose in as your body is running out of the last dose. With meditation, the effects last a certain amount of time also, and by having a second meditation later in the day you are providing yourself with a booster of the physiological effects of meditation. That said, going back to the running analogy the effects of meditation build up more and more over time. The more you do it, the greater those physiological effects in between meditations.
It is possible to see changes to the brain in imaging after just 8 weeks of regular meditation practice, and just 10-15 minutes a day will generate perceptible results to the practitioner in a short time. I have heard it said that research shows increasing benefit with the amount of time spent in meditation up to 30 minutes, but beyond 30 minutes there are not scientifically researched benefits. That was someone speaking about meditation from a very scientific perspective, and I don't know if he was just citing one particular study. I know from my own practice that as my meditations deepen I receive greater and greater benefits, and in order to go deeply sometimes I need to give myself more time. Advanced yogis are not entering samadhi (the state of oneness with all consciousness) on 30 minutes a day. But, different people need different things from meditation, and for many, many people, 30 minutes a day will get them the results they are after. At any rate, it is important to build up the time spent in meditation slowly and not jump from, say, 10 to 30 minutes, or 30 minutes to 60. Be patient in giving yourself time to grow to greater lengths of time to avoid frustration in trying to keep your focus beyond what you are yet ready for. You won't make time for something you aren't enjoying, so don't set yourself up for frustration.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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