There are two sides to this argument and that’s what creates the misunderstanding.
So, let me explain what they are and why it matters.
There are a multitude of apps, websites, teachers, etc. that tell you it’s absolutely fine to only meditate for a few minutes a day in the beginning. That huge benefit will be gained by even small periods of meditation. On the other side, their are people who say that meditation for less than 15 minutes is worthless So, who’s right?
Opinion One: Short meditations are a waste of time
There’s scientific and anecdotal evidence, that meditating for longer periods of time is the only way to get real, lasting benefits. According to Buddhist texts, the Buddha meditated often for many hours at a time, sometimes for days. Buddhist monks often meditate for several hours each day. Most meditation retreats have periods of meditation that can continue for hours.
Scientific studies of 20 Buddhist monks have shown that their brains now have some huge advantages.
Every meditation teacher out there will tell you that you should meditate for at least 20 mins each time. In fact, I love this recent adage that’s often attributed as an old Zen proverb..,
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.
Dr Sukhraj Dhillon
There’s definitely a lot of weight regarding longer meditation practices. So, that would seem to be the correct way to do it, wouldn’t it?
Option Two: Short meditations are beneficial
So, if there’s so much evidence for longer meditations, why do some people advocate shorter ones?
Well, there are actually two really good reasons for it.
Firstly, in our ‘always on’ lives, we often don’t take the time to relax. AT ALL! So, short five minute meditations give us a chance to slow down and notice the things around us.
Even just those five minutes each day teaches us that we can take time for ourselves. Like the short relief when you’re in the eye of the storm. You know it’s going to be short lived. You know that in a few minutes the whole world is going to be chaos again. But for now, everything is calm and sublime 🙂
And the second reason, is short meditations are great for forming a habit of meditation. If you were to set yourself a goal of meditating every day for 20 minutes, you’ll probably fail.
Life happens. Things get crazy, work needs that report, the kids need feeding, the dog needs to be walked, etc. 20 minutes of ‘me-time’ isn’t always going to be possible. But, on the days when it isn’t, you’ll definitely find five minutes. And five minutes continues the habit.
Personally, I get a little annoyed with people who say that short meditations are worthless. Sure, you could say that they’re not really a meditation, but that’s not their purpose. That’s what the 20+ minute meditations are for.
Their purpose, is to remind you that you have the power to take time away from all the madness that surrounds you. And, that you can do it whenever you like, no matter what else is going on.
Five minutes each day of mindfulness, has to be better than five minutes of mindLESSness.
There are a lot of misunderstandings about meditation, I’ve covered some of them before in an earlier article.
My view, is try whenever possible to set aside at least 20 minutes each day for meditation practice, First thing in the morning is probably best, even if you need to get up a bit earlier. But, if you can’t manage 20 minutes, just take as long as you can.
Do you have a view on this? Let me know in the comments below.