longer sits for beginners

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

longer sits for beginners

Postby Birdy » Thu Feb 20, 2014 7:19 am

I went up to a buddhist house the other day and talked with a lady there about a meditation problem. I told her that I was a beginner and of the things she advised me to do as we talked about beginner meditation was never to sit longer than 20 minutes. However I am not an absolute beginner and at that point I had been sitting every day for over two weeks and the sits were both enjoyable and fruitful. I was well into the groove and my problem was actually that I live next to a semi busy road and I was wondering if this might be inhibiting me from reaching jhana easily. So no problems with the practice itself so far.

However i feel that one of the reasons i now find it so easy to discipline myself every day is because of how much i enjoyed and benefitted from a few of the longer sits i did in that period. Longer as in 30-50 mins. Those times i did those i didnt actually plan to, but i just kept sitting past the 20 mins and found that for about every 10 mins longer that i would sit i would always be at a deeper and more pleasant level than 10 mins ago. I want to do this again. I almost feel like a half-ass now for only sitting 20 mins haha. Anyway I was curious as to your thoughts :) if i dont recieve any decent criticism then im going to resume the occasional longer sits.

With kindness :)

Birdy.
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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby Ben » Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:01 am

Greetings Birdy,
I think it was Buddhaghosa who said that 'Noise is a thorn to jhana'.
But you can support your meditation practice by ensuring you maintain your precepts, engage in Dana, selfless service and study. These are probably more important than a perfect meditation place.
Keep in mind also that as you begin to progress, difficulties will manifest in the form of hindrances. Don't be too attached to the idea that an enjoyable session is indicative of progress.
Kind regards,
Ben
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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby Mkoll » Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:49 pm

Don't Goenka retreats have people sitting for an hour even if they're beginners?

I don't see any problem with meditating that long. Maybe you could ask her the reason behind why she gave that recommendation? The more the better as long as you're not neglecting your social responsibilities and are taking care of your body.
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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby Hamsaka » Thu Feb 20, 2014 10:04 pm

I too am a beginner with six months of daily meditation. I started with very short sessions and like you Birdy found longer sessions to come easily so that soon I was sitting for 30" then 45". I've been doing 45" to 80" tops recently. I go through periods where the concentration seems to disintegrate for fifteen minutes so after 45" or an hour. Sometimes I can recompose the concentration and go on to longer sessions.

My 'goal' is to enter first jhana of course, which I have yet to do. I can enter "access concentration" almost every time I meditate within 30", and that is where I stay for the remaining time. My focus is on the breath with lots of influence from Thanissaro Bikkhu, and the access concentration is extremely quiet, the breath is barely discernable, and yet I am aware. Sometimes, like last night, my sense of my body got all wonky, I 'lost' my arms and legs and my body shape felt like a huge sphere with my head at the center (???). Access concentration (I am guessing, I don't have a local meditation teacher) is deeply peaceful, mildly pleasant, but that's where I stay.

Recently while listening to Thanissaro Bikkhu (he would be my main teacher, I guess) he mentioned how important it is to cultivate the brahmaviharas and generosity and sila (morality) in your daily life as a means to pave the way for jhana. If I am feeling guilty about a white lie or being lazy/procrastinating, I'm NOT paving the way for jhana. Other than that, I'm still waiting for jhana, too :)

PS (for Birdy) Are you a goose lover, too?

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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby Birdy » Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:24 am

Ben wrote:Greetings Birdy,
I think it was Buddhaghosa who said that 'Noise is a thorn to jhana'.
But you can support your meditation practice by ensuring you maintain your precepts, engage in Dana, selfless service and study. These are probably more important than a perfect meditation place.
Keep in mind also that as you begin to progress, difficulties will manifest in the form of hindrances. Don't be too attached to the idea that an enjoyable session is indicative of progress.
Kind regards,
Ben


Thanks Ben. Yeah I am going to continue trucking through with it regardless. I bought some earmuffs and while they dont block out alllll of the noise, they are certainly helping. I'll have to keep location in my mind next time I choose a place to live.
I'm aware that enjoying a session means little in the bigger picture. It has just helped me to get in the rhythm.

@Mkoll she said it was because sometimes beginners when they meditate that long regularly they will likely do something wrong and get into habits that are not necessarily meditation. I guess there is also risk of attachment/averaion to some of the phenomena that one can experience when one gets really deep into meditation.

Thats good that you have had that success, Hamsaka :) im sure there are bound to be such things such as some waning concentration on longer sits especially when you become so relaxed. I guess the only way to overcome it is to go through it :)

One of my names is a bird hence the moniker :)
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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby IanAnd » Sun Mar 02, 2014 12:11 am

Birdy wrote:However I am not an absolute beginner and at that point I had been sitting every day for over two weeks and the sits were both enjoyable and fruitful. I was well into the groove and my problem was actually that I live next to a semi busy road and I was wondering if this might be inhibiting me from reaching jhana easily. So no problems with the practice itself so far.

However i feel that one of the reasons i now find it so easy to discipline myself every day is because of how much i enjoyed and benefited from a few of the longer sits i did in that period. Longer as in 30-50 mins. Those times i did those i didnt actually plan to, but i just kept sitting past the 20 mins and found that for about every 10 mins longer that i would sit i would always be at a deeper and more pleasant level than 10 mins ago. I want to do this again. I almost feel like a half-ass now for only sitting 20 mins haha.

Anyway I was curious as to your thoughts :) if i dont recieve any decent criticism then im going to resume the occasional longer sits.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with pursuit of longer sits (that is, longer than 20 minutes) as a beginner. When I was first learning meditation with a meditation teacher some 33 years ago, he recommended sits of, at the very least, 30 minutes each, and anything more was icing in the cake. In the beginning I found that sometimes challenging, but I stuck with it.

When, during our subsequent discussions, he mentioned that "the more meditation you do, the more karma you burn up" I became almost fanatical about sitting for at least 45 minutes to an hour or more. (I was going through a difficult time, dealing with depression and such.) I would often do 1 1/4 hour to 1 1/2 hour sits (although I wouldn't necessarily recommend that others do this — that is, unless they are motivated, like I was — an hour sit is plenty of time in most cases). There was the incentive to "burn up karma," and so far everything that this teacher had taught be seemed to be working just as he had said it would. So, I was developing confidence not only in my meditation practice, but also in what was being taught me. I must admit that it took me a few years to figure out what he meant by that comment on "burning karma" — so many other things were going on at that time in my life that contemplation on the finer points of practice took a back seat to other more pressing practical problems that were facing me.

You will find, though, that if you aspire to practice dhyana (jhana) meditation (absorption) that hour sits are par for the course, and sometime even longer. Dhyana helps one to increase concentration levels, which in turn assists in lengthening off-the-cushion mindfulness practice in waking consciousness. For several years, my practice consisted of nothing less than at least an hour a sit, two and three times a day. Especially in the mornings before starting my day and in the evenings, as a fitting end and reevaluation of my day. I found this to be a very fruitful approach.

The only thing I might add is: to bring reading of the discourses into your practice if you aren't already doing so now. Reading and contemplating a passage from a sutta before sitting can often yield unexpected insight into that sutta. The appreciation you will experience for having done so cannot be bought at any price! :) In addition, it brings an added dimension to the practice by providing you with added material for contemplation such that you begin to look forward to sitting practice. In other words, you never become bored by practice.
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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby Weakfocus » Sun Mar 02, 2014 4:21 am

Birdy wrote:I was well into the groove and my problem was actually that I live next to a semi busy road and I was wondering if this might be inhibiting me from reaching jhana easily. So no problems with the practice itself so far.

If noise pollution is a bother you can use earplugs.

I started with small 20 minutes sittings because as a beginner I could not cope with the pain that comes from sitting. Gradually I have raised my sitting time to 50 minutes, and have noticed improvements in my mindfulness not only during the sitting but also during day-to-day activities. Thanks to the stronger samadhi my sila is also stronger than ever, and maintaining the five precepts does not take as much effort or fight as it used to. Very beneficial. So if you feel like sitting for 50 minutes or longer, by all means do so. Meditate for as long as you can. No need to restrict yourself to 20 minutes.

alan wrote:How could you believe that sitting burns Karma?

This discussion might be helpful (or not): Goenka on elimination of sankharas
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Re: longer sits for beginners

Postby Ananda26 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:35 pm

Birdy wrote:I went up to a buddhist house the other day and talked with a lady there about a meditation problem. I told her that I was a beginner and of the things she advised me to do as we talked about beginner meditation was never to sit longer than 20 minutes. However I am not an absolute beginner and at that point I had been sitting every day for over two weeks and the sits were both enjoyable and fruitful. I was well into the groove and my problem was actually that I live next to a semi busy road and I was wondering if this might be inhibiting me from reaching jhana easily. So no problems with the practice itself so far.

However i feel that one of the reasons i now find it so easy to discipline myself every day is because of how much i enjoyed and benefitted from a few of the longer sits i did in that period. Longer as in 30-50 mins. Those times i did those i didnt actually plan to, but i just kept sitting past the 20 mins and found that for about every 10 mins longer that i would sit i would always be at a deeper and more pleasant level than 10 mins ago. I want to do this again. I almost feel like a half-ass now for only sitting 20 mins haha. Anyway I was curious as to your thoughts :) if i dont recieve any decent criticism then im going to resume the occasional longer sits.

With kindness :)

Birdy.


I would recommend doing at least 1 hour if you can. Since you are finding the meditation to be pleasant that indicates that you can sit longer.


Bhavana Meditation Society in High View West Virginia has meditation retreats with six one hour sittings per day.

Bhante Vimala Ramsi has sat 5-8 hours continuous sitting.
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