For how long should we meditate?
The remarkable benefits of mindfulness meditation in
physical, mental and emotional health, a routine subject in the media these
days, seem to convince only a small fraction of people. Reasons for not
meditating are numerous: "I cannot concentrate, sittings are too long, I
have no time or... I do not need to meditate because my concentration is
excellent". For how long should we meditate and how often? Long sessions,
every day. Fortunately, with determination and perseverance, meditation becomes
a pleasant and indispensable habit.
The main purpose of the mindfulness meditation is not
the elimination of addictions, phobias, headaches, bad temper, bigotry... These
are just the by-products of the practice; the central aim is the development of
our faculty to be constantly alert, in present time, that is, the ability to
remain aware of our body, our feelings and our mental states.
For some special individuals, such as J. Krishnamurti,
the philosopher of India, mindfulness seems to be a natural quality, and,
therefore, they consider meditation is pointless and superfluous. Krishnamurti,
consistent with his innate virtue, is sharply critical of meditation
techniques, in general, and of the exercises that demand the focusing of
attention on mental devices, such as mantras, chants, prayers, or figures, in
Everyone should practice mindfulness meditation,
however. In the modern world, the problem of lack of concentration is worsening
with the volume of information with which the media overfeed us. Advertising is
always aiming at convincing us to wanting things we do not need or changing us
into someone else. And it is getting it.
The privileged ‘attentive', unaware of what a volatile
mind is, cannot understand the difficulty to concentrate of the other ‘common’
humans. For this quasi-unanimous majority, mindfulness can only become easy and
spontaneous after hundreds of hours of practice. How many are these many hours?
There is no single answer and there is no 'personal dose' of meditation; the
'requirements' and 'resources' of time vary from person to person and each one
must set priorities. We prefer then searching for help on a comparison that
each one can use to make his or her own numbers.
Imagine that your mind is like your home, with all the
conveniences that it has, and in which there are thousands of unwanted, uncomfortable
and mischievous thoughts that arise as mosquitoes that disturb your life at all
times. If insects do not annoy you and you do not care about the diseases they
carry, then you do not need to do anything.
Otherwise, that is, you do recognize a problem,
mindfulness meditation is the 'benevolent insecticide' you require, and every
meditation session is an application of the ingredient. The overall
effectiveness of the procedure depends on both the frequency of the sessions
(the number of treatments) and the duration thereof (the applied amount).
Only you can acknowledge the fluttering in your head.
Do you want to get an idea of the magnitude of the problem? Sit in a
comfortable position, close your eyes and observe your breath for ten minutes.
If you have time, do so now and rate your experience.
Do you have real and dramatic difficulty to focus on
the flow of air, going in and out through your nose, not even for a few
seconds? Are you really slow to realize you lost track of the exercise and got
distracted? Did you give up after a couple minutes? If the answers are all ‘yes’,
your home is infected and needs high and frequent doses of meditation, perhaps
two daily sessions, forty five minutes long each. An initial intensive
treatment, as a ten-day retreat with some well referenced group might prove
Does your mind wander every moment but rather soon you
notice your distraction and bring your
attention back to the breath? Daily doses, 30-45 minutes long, are recommended.
(If you can spend only two hours a week, then start there; running is a better
exercise than walking but walking is better than no exercise.)
Finally, your situation is not any of the above because
you your concentration was perfect during the test and mental volatility is not
your problem. You are positive you do
not need any 'insecticide' for holding attention on your breath all the time.
Right? Mmmm... One of two things: Either you never realize you are distracted
or congratulations! you could well be a 'reincarnation' of Krishnamurti.
Author of 'Inner Harmony through Mindfulness Meditation'
London, June 28, 2015
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