Meditating for a longer period of time can be a desirable goal for many reasons. However, the reality of actually doing it can be difficult, to say the least for many of us.
Why is it hard for most people to meditate for longer? The main reasons are that our BODIES and MINDS are not yet properly conditioned for it. And this means that we are going to meet physical and mental resistance when we try to meditate for longer.
So while you may read lots of advice online about how to set up your space, choose a comfortable position, have the right music, and reducing possible distractions, etc. the length of time you will remain in meditation is most often determined by your level of physical discomfort and your mental stamina.
Sure, all the above factors, external to our SELVES, which increase our comfort and reduce distractions are important and helpful. However, it is our ‘SELF,’ our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that are most often the reason we get up.
How Can I Meditate For A Longer Period Of time?
Our bodies and minds have been conditioned to behave in certain ways over a long period of time. And now, you want them to behave differently i.e. sitting in a position that is uncomfortable while reducing your mental activity. Initially, your body and mind will rebel and try to get you to return to your old comfortable habits. They understand and like the familiar ways….. However, as with learning anything new, with time and consistent practice, they can be trained to accept your new wishes.
Our Behaviors And Abilities Are Determined By Our ‘Developed’ Habits
Maybe you have been meditating for 5 or 10 minutes a day, regularly for the last 6 months. And your sessions are good. There’s not too much physical discomfort, and you regularly achieve at least a few minutes of inner peace and tranquility.
Awesome! You are benefiting from your sessions and now you think it would be a great idea to sit for a longer period of time. Makes sense! More time equals more benefits in your life. Right?
So you try to sit for longer…. However, after 12 minutes, you begin experiencing aches and pains in your body…. and then your mind switches on and begins thinking all sorts of crazy stuff.
What are you doing? You are in pain… You need to get up now….. There’s other stuff for you to sort out, and did I mention, YOU ARE IN PAIN!!!!!!
And this is not at all beneficial for your practice.
It is your habitual body and mind that are sabotaging your ability to extend your practice. And if you listen to them, you will never grow beyond what you are currently capable of…. and this applies to all other spheres of your life as well!
For example: When you first start going to the gym, your muscles are weak. It’s only by persevering and pushing beyond current limits that your muscles will grow. And when you first take up running, you can’t expect to complete a marathon until you have developed the mental and physical stamina to do so with many years of practice.
And meditation is no different. We need to develop our physical bodies over time so they can sit still for a longer time….. And our minds need to learn that it is ok to be still, focused on a mantra, and maintain a specific train of thought (or whatever our meditation practice is about) without being sucked back into the modern world of constant distractions.
How Do We Develop Our Ability To Meditate For A Longer Period Of Time?
Using the gym as an example…. If you work out too hard on the first day, you are going to regret it in the following few days. Your muscles will ache and you will be uncomfortable all the time. Pushing too far beyond your normal comfort zone causes physical pain and mental anxiety.
You need to gradually work your way up to your desired meditation time so that you are not overwhelmed by what your body and mind currently have no experience with.
So, be kind to yourself, respect your body and work with it. Remember, your body is a living organism, comprised of many complex parts and systems, each with its own intelligence and memories….. and these parts do not know what they haven’t been taught yet….
And if you allow them to learn gently and lovingly and they will happily begin to conform to your new desires once they understand that you are committed to change…..
Prepare your space and yourself as much as possible by:
– Set aside the time and ensure you won’t be distracted
– Set up your space to be as comfortable as possible
– Have the right attitude when going in
– Remember why you are wanting to meditate for longer… Passion is an important motivator.
– Be consistent to build capacity
– Break your sessions up. Practice twice a day instead of once to increase your overall time meditating.
– Try adding an extra minute each week. Set a timer so you are not watching a clock…..
– Forget about the time and just sit. And when you can sit no longer, say to yourself…. Just one more minute… and then, just one more minute. You will be surprised at how your determination to stretch beyond your current abilities can override your existing comfort zones.
– Practice outside of your ‘normal’ practice. i.e. If your goal is to sit with crossed legs for longer, practice sitting in this position while watching TV, working at your computer, and even while eating. Build your body’s abilities quickly by doing it more often…. Your body has an amazing capacity to learn new habits….you just have to consistently show it the new behaviors you wish to adopt.
– Practice focusing your mind while off the cushion…. The ability to focus on a single task is improved with practice. Your mind is no different from a muscle in this respect. Therefore, your ability to focus your mind, without distraction, during meditation can be greatly enhanced when you start applying the same principles to tasks you are involved in while you’re not meditating.
Is Meditating For A Longer Period Of Time Going To Be Beneficial For Me?
Maybe your body can sit still for an hour without any problems (lucky you!) However, unless your mind is attuned to the meditative process you are engaging in, it may well be time wasted.
It’s not the length of time that you ‘meditate’ that is important, but the amount of time you remain in a meditative state that is of benefit to you. So this means that more time spent ‘meditating’ does not necessarily equal ‘more quality meditation time.’
The more time you spend meditating is time that you are not doing other stuff. And it’s important to remember that meditation is just a process (that we engage in and derive benefits from)…..
…. Meditation, in itself, is not the end result we are seeking! It is just another part of the journey we are on that hopefully enables us to get to where we want to go (be that enlightenment or just greater relaxation.)
By this I mean: It’s the benefits we gain from practicing that we can carry over into the rest of our daily lives that we are really after…… the peace of mind, the ability to focus, the equanimity, etc.
And knowing this gives us more choices in how we practice. We can sit for longer…. Or we can take what we have already learned and apply it to our daily lives on a more regular and consistent basis.
This is my preference, to apply what we have learned to make our daily lives better in every way possible. After all, we are human beings…. Here on this planet at this time to engage our senses in living life….
….. not sitting in a cave for 8 hours a day in bliss, alone….. although there is nothing wrong with this if this is what you have consciously chosen to do for your personal growth (not to escape a life that’s out of control….)
We meditate to make our lives better… not to escape them. And meditation makes us better people who are more able to CONSCIOUSLY CREATE BETTER CIRCUMSTANCES FOR OURSELVES AND OUR LOVED ONES……
Meditation raises our vibration…. And in this universe of attraction, a raised vibration means that through The Law Of Attraction, we easily attract the better stuff into our lives that we desire….
My Experience With Mental And Physical Pain When Meditating For Longer!
When you begin learning anything new, there is no escaping the inevitable pain or ‘breaking in period.’ It’s part of the growth process. And with that in mind….
….. about 18 years ago, I went on my first 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. I had done several 3-day retreats in the previous years and was very much looking forward to the extended period of silence.
And as it turned out, I had a major breakthrough, one that I can still recall very vividly! And for that experience alone, I am very grateful.
Vipassana, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, is a form of body awareness meditation. So you sit for (from memory) about 10 sessions every day and are initially guided through a systematic process of bodily awareness. There are short breaks between sessions and 2 meals are provided each day.
On the second day, for some unknown reason, when beginning a session, I decided I would sit and not move for one entire session, an hour…..
So I sat. Back then, I was only able to sit in half lotus. I keep my spine straight and had no cushions under my bum or supporting my legs. It started well, but I had no idea what I was in for……
After about 20 minutes, the usual discomfort began to set in. My legs began experiencing pain and numbness, and my bum and back were aching. However, instead of stretching them and then sitting again like I normally did, I just sat there…. and noticed the discomfort. And as the intensity of pain grew, I noticed it more and with more urgency….
My mind began insisting that I NEED TO MOVE NOW! There were no other options presented…. MOVE NOW OR ELSE! And I thought, Or else what? What is the worst that can happen… I’m going to ride this out until the bitter end!
In a way, I was amused by the drama that was playing out in my mind…. I was able to ‘watch it’ from a distance…. But unfortunately, this did not diminish the still raising intensity of pain my body was feeling. Observing it, experiencing it, and thinking about it, all at once…. Interesting!
I consoled myself because I knew that as the watcher, I am a Spiritual Being and therefore, this physical reality is just an illusion….. that’s bound to help me overcome the pain right?….
….. the pain kept growing and growing until it felt like my legs were in an intense inferno of flames. I couldn’t believe it…. it was incredible….
…. I had to open an eye to check that the building wasn’t on fire. It bloody well wasn’t! Everyone else was just doing what they did during every other session…. and I’m on fire, in the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced…. and no one else had any idea it was happening….
….. and while at the same time a part of me was detached from it and just bearing witness to the whole experience, I’m thinking that this is surreal, this can’t be happening…… and on and on it went….
It must have been about 50 minutes into the session that everything changed. (So that’s after 30 minutes of fighting with pain, confusion, anxiety, doubt, fear, stress, etc.)
Just really gently, all the pain, the fire, and all the discomfort melted away. It dissolved so much so that I felt like I had just sat down for the first time…. Physically, I felt intense relief. And mentally, I was like…. WOW…. What the hell just happened….
What Is The Lesson To Be Learned Here?
It was in that moment of release that I understood how much my old unconscious habits and limiting beliefs had been controlling my life up to that point in time…….
I had been (like almost everyone is) a slave to the conditioning we have grown up with as to how we are fragile and limited inferior beings…. And I just learned at that moment that all the limits I had imposed on myself were simply NOT REAL!
I could with focus, determination, and willpower overcome the limits I have set for myself. No one else set them for me. The limits I had in my mind about how long it is possible for me to sit without moving in a meditative state were learned by observing others meditating, learned at school, from movies, friends and family, etc……
…. and I was learning from people who couldn’t do it! So I was learning that I couldn’t do it!
My lesson here was that OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OR RELIABLE INDICATORS OF WHAT I CAN AND CAN’T DO! I AM THE ONE WHO CREATES MY REALITY….. AND IF I HAVE THE WILLPOWER TO DO SOMETHING, I CAN DO IT!
What Does This Mean For You?
If I can meditate for a longer period of time just by deciding to do so and sticking with my decision no matter what, then you can too….. Yes, you can meditate for longer…. How badly do you want to? Well, that’s up to you….
Do you need to meditate for longer?????? Again, that’s up to you. And to answer this question, you need to really evaluate what your priorities are in life…. But that’s an article for another day….
I hope you understand that your body and mind are the most precious gifts you could ever have for ‘experiencing’ this wonderful physical reality, this game of life on this wonderful little blue planet in a universe of trillions of stars with planets of their own.