One of the interesting things I’ve noticed since I began meditating is the importance of the length of time set aside for it. I began with a timer set for 15 minutes. I kept my meditations limited to that amount of time for years. Every now and then I would do 20 minutes. Never longer. When I’m running short on time, I’ll just sit for 5 minutes. However, this short of a meditation feels more like going through the motions to check off a box than actually being meditative.
It’s fascinating how terrifying the idea of sitting in silence with yourself can be. There are many days when I would be anxious at the prospect of beginning a simple 15 minute session. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but knowing I’d be alone with myself with no distractions was daunting. I knew the time could fly by or seem like an eternity. Most times I would feel myself relaxing into the meditation just as the time was up. Reluctantly letting my eyes open to continue on with my day.
Over a year ago, I finally worked up the courage to set a goal of daily 30 minute meditations for myself. 15 minutes just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I knew I needed to push myself to sit for longer if I really wanted to see a difference in my mental state. At first it was ridiculously difficult to commit to this length of time. It seemed so long. I felt afraid I wouldn’t be able to justify “wasting” this amount of time everyday “doing nothing.” Yet it quickly became one of my favorite parts of the day.
I’ve learned quite a bit from this decision to extend my meditation sessions. One of the most important things I particularly noticed from being too busy to sit for more than 5 minutes a day this past week is how important it is to set aside a significant amount of time. After such a long time sitting in meditation for 30 minutes every day, 5 minutes felt like a joke. It didn’t feel like I came anywhere close to a meditative state. My mind was racing the entire time. Wondering how close I was to being finished. Planning out my to-do list for the day. Running over earlier conversations in my head. At most I only achieved a few brief moments of actual concentration and mindfulness.
I want to be clear, though, I am not discrediting starting out with a short amount of time like this as an introduction to meditation. In the beginning even 5 minutes can feel scary and challenging. It’s a good way to begin integrating a meditation practice into your daily routine. And it will still make a difference. However, if you’ve been meditating for awhile already, I highly recommend trying to lengthen your sessions.
It may seem difficult at first, but I guarantee it’s worth it. When you have a long period of time to meditate, there is a different atmosphere. It seems less possible to just run out the clock by allowing your mind to run wild for a few minutes. Half-heartedly trying to reign it back in. Instead you are forced to face your fear, your anxiety, yourself.
At first my mind tries all it’s normal tricks. Attempting to escape or convince me to give up, worrying about how much time is left, dreading that time, trying to latch onto distractions, resisting. However, while this stage may consume the entire meditation when only given 5 minutes, it will eventually subside if given the more time. Eventually the mind has to accept the reality that there is nowhere to go. Eventually it accepts that the only thing to do is to surrender.
And what a beautiful feeling it is when you finally soften into that total surrender. There is nothing better. This is where the true meditation begins. Often my body will even begin to buzz and feel blurred around the edges. Just breathing feels so good. Feeling what it’s truly like to just exist. Realizing that it’s okay to surrender. Realizing there is in fact peace afterwards. Accepting that it’s okay to merely be.
Now, I still have a long way to go with my meditations. There are still plenty of days where I’ll doze off or still manage to get lost in thought the entire time. But it’s always worth it for those few moments of bliss I’ve found. Often when I notice myself finding that peace, I’ll remind myself: This is always here. This is inside of me. I can come back here, to this inner peace, whenever I need to. It is always with me. It is me.
Many times now instead of feeling anxious to begin my meditation, I’ll feel anxious as my body begins to sense my time is almost up. The last few moments are often spent fighting with my desire to cling to that internal bliss. I hope to one day soon begin giving myself even more time every day for meditation. I can only imagine what new insights, what new depths, are still waiting to be discovered within. I sincerely hope you’ll decide to give yourself the chance to discover your own. Give yourself the gift of time. Time to surrender. Time to just be. I promise you it’s not a waste. It may even find it’s the most important time you have during the day. You may find that it is the best gift you can give yourself. A true act of self-love. You deserve it.