I'm in the midst of summer fluidity. There isn't a lot of structure in my world right now, as my kids are on summer break and each week is different from the last. They are signed up for all types of summer camps, some of which require them to arrive at 9 am, others at 10 am, they could be 3 hours in length or 6, some drop off/pick up times overlap with teaching times for me requiring me to enlist help from family. As I type this, they are on their first overnight camp which will last six nights. Every week brings a new schedule, new planning, new flow.
It's all good fun and it's great to get this time to shake up our routines, get them more active, and give their intellectual sides a bit of a rest. The downside is it throws into the air my meditation routine. During the school year I meditate as soon as they get on the school bus in the morning and then again before they arrive home after school. With this summer schedule I have to reevaluate each day when I can fit in meditation. My meditations are shorter than normal, and it's difficult to fit in more than one per day.*
A former teacher of mine, Sanjan, as been organizing weekly long meditations in this virtual community of which I am a member. I've been watching these long meditations (3 hours) come and go each week with equal parts longing and intimidation. I know how good long meditations are for progress, but when I have done them I usually find my mind more restless than normal. It's as though because I know I will be sitting for a long time, there is no rush to get to a place of stillness. However, because I feel my meditations on the whole this summer have been quite thin, I felt that dedicating myself to some long meditations would help me close the gap a bit between my normal amount of time spent in meditation and what that has transformed into during the summer. Finally, the stars aligned and my thirst became deep enough that I joined the three hour meditation Sunday after dropping my kids off at their camp.
As per my usual experience, I had a hard time staying really focused throughout the meditation. Sanjan was a great facilitator and provided lots of pranayama (breathing) exercises and chanting/singing before we started to get our energy calmly activated, and we took a break every hour for a chant. I ultimately did feel that my meditation was quite a bit deeper than normal, but I think the benefit of the meditation was more pronounced when it was over. I came downstairs and could really feel a deep sense of stillness. I could see my husband was on our porch watching a soccer game, and I was tempted to go join him but I couldn't imagine getting in front of a TV and disturbing my inner stillness. Instead, I went upstairs and read an uplifting book.
Long meditations are definitely important to help your meditations progress. Aim to double or triple your regular meditation time once per week. These long meditations provide many benefits. Most obviously, you give yourself more time to enter into deeper stillness. This stillness has healing benefits in body, mind, and soul. The more time you spend in that place of stillness, the easier it is to get back to that place. With everything you do, you are training yourself. Wise men say that if you want to know who you'll be in six months, look at what you are doing today. Who you are today is a result of what you were doing six months ago. The more time you spend in stillness, the more easily stillness becomes a natural part of who you are. And really, that stillness is a major reason people explore meditation in the first place! Another great benefit of a long meditation is how it makes your regular meditations feel short! This morning I spent about an hour in total between my Energization Exercises, pranayama, chanting, Kriya yoga, and focused meditation, and it really whizzed by.
So try to incorporate one long meditation into your week. Just like everything else to do with meditation, experience is the key. You cannot simply learn about meditation and get any benefit. You must do!
*Alessandra and I explore our summertime meditation challenges in an episode of The Meditation Conversation podcast, entitled "Check Up - How We Bring Meditation Into a Busy Everyday Life," June 27, 2019.
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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