How Long Should You Meditate to Get Real Results?
I get variations of this question all the time. Why? Because everyone is busy. Despite that, a lot of people still want to meditate. The problem is, there is never enough time. And there are other obstacles. Meditation is also hard because we aren’t used to sitting still.
And we aren’t used to letting go of our hyperactive minds, which is what meditation is all about. Let’s be honest, in the beginning, meditation doesn’t exactly conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings. For a lot of us, it’s more like consenting to a mild and ancient form of self-inflicted torment.
So for a lot of people, when they ask themselves, “How long should I meditate?” They are really asking a different question. It’s more like,“How little can I do and still get the benefits?” Can you relate to that? If so, that’s totally fine. It’s not a problem and it’s not an obstacle.
Meditation Is Like Going to the Movies?
But let’s pause for a second and do a thought experiment. Think with me for a moment and answer this question. What gives you pleasure? What makes you really happy? For me, I just thought about going to the movies. When I think about going to the movies, I don’t think about how little time I can get away with devoting to the experience of the movies. I just think, Hell Yeah! I’m going to watch a film! It’s a totally different response.
And what if I were to tell you that you could get that excited about meditation? What if I were to say that over time, you could get to the point where you felt you could not meditate enough?
The truth is, when you develop a rich and consistent practice, that’s your experience. That’s often my experience. Of course it’s not 100% of the time, but it’s the majority. So I don’t expect you to relate to that I’m Going To The Movies! experience of meditation right away. It’s the other end of the spectrum from where we started this conversation.
But I want you to hold that possibility in mind as we come back to our original question: how much time should you put into meditation to get results?
And to answer that question, we need to first answer another.
What Results Are You Looking For?
What are the results you’re looking for when you meditate? Do you want to find peace? Do you have anxiety and stress that you want to deal with through meditation? Maybe you are meditating to find deeper meaning?These are all really good reasons to meditate. And practicing meditation can help you achieve these results.
But it’s also really important to understand that, like all good things, the results aren’t always immediate. Meditation is an art as much as a science. Yes, if you faithfully apply your attention and follow through on your intention with commitment and discipline, you are going to get results. I have no doubt about it. But you also need to be patient. Unfortunately, you don’t get to decide how quickly you see the results. In fact, you often don’t even get to know that you are having any results at all.
Ok, I know. You’re thinking, what kind of deal is that? You’re asking me to invest all this time and energy and focus and I don’t get to see the return on my investment?
The truth is, we are all so different. We come from different cultures, and we have different histories and personalities. So you never know how it’s going work. You may get results right away, but it might take days, weeks, or even months of regular practice.
Meditation Teaches You Patience
That’s one of the best lessons meditation can teach you. Right out of the gates, you are cultivating patience and acceptance. You don’t get to control anything or dictate the outcome. In meditation, you are letting everything be just as it is, so you accept whatever happens (or doesn’t happen).
That’s one of the many unexpected gifts of meditation.
For me, I was 20 years old and gung ho about getting enlightened. I wanted to be a big spiritual hero and I was impatient for breakthroughs and big realizations. I had big ideas about myself. It took me years to see real results. And of course, they were never the results I expected.
But in the process, the practice was working on me. Slowly but surely, I was building a foundation. I was probably too ambitious to see it at the time, but now at age 40, I can see that every hour and minute counted. And it still does.
So How Long Should You Meditate?
If you are just starting out, I recommend you meditate for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes every day. You can start with even less. Maybe try it for 1 minute in the morning. And when you can sit still and relax for that long, move to 2 minutes. And then you keep increasing your time as you get comfortable with the practice.
The most important thing is to just start. The next most important thing is to be consistent. You are trying to set a new groove here. So starting simple is a great way to go.
The way I think about it, 5 minutes is 100% more than no minutes. And so is 1 minute. You just need to do it. You need to start and you need to keep going. Pick the amount of time that works for you and do it every day.
After a few weeks, then you can start to evaluate the impact and results of the meditation. Because we are all different, there isn’t a right amount of time to meditate. But it’s also like learning any new skill or practicing an instrument. The more time you invest in practice, the more results you’re going to see.
Meditation Makes Everything A Little Better
I meditate to experience the part of me that feels limitless. I meditate because I know that I’m a better, nicer, kinder, and more relaxed person when I meditate. I’m more patient with myself and others. But also, I love life more when I meditate. I feel more connected to life and the cosmos.
These are real results of my practice. I don’t know when or how they happened, or in what order, or in what proportion to the time I invested. But they are real results and I don’t doubt them.
These days, I long to get on the cushion if I’ve been off it for too long. Is it better than going to the movies? Well, let me answer this way. It makes the movies even better. It makes everything a little better.