Duration of meditation session and health

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

Duration of meditation session and health

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:33 am

What are reasonable limits on the length of single meditation sessions to avoid negative health consequences?
I have heard of meditators suffering permanent circulatory problems from sitting too long. I currently have my meditation timer set to 56 minutes and would like to increase that to maybe 1.5 hours when i have time for that length of session.
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:38 am

Hi Morlock

I have, at times, sat for up to nine hours continuously with no ill-effect.
A good rule of thumb is change your posture if it hurts.
kind regards

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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Sobeh » Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:09 am

I'd like to mention that I'm only aware of two guidelines on sitting meditation postures: that you are able to sit erect, and that you are able to remain still. Pretzel legs and the like need not apply.
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Collective » Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:13 am

Ben wrote:Hi Morlock

I have, at times, sat for up to nine hours continuously with no ill-effect.
A good rule of thumb is change your posture if it hurts.
kind regards

Ben

9 hours? That's like...9 hours! Incredible!

The mind boggles
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:32 am

Not really Collective.
I've been practicing since 1985 and so over time I've been able to develop my capacity for continuous meditation on retreats.
On a day-to-day level, I rarely sit for more than 1h 20m at a time.
kind regards

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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:17 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Morlock

I have, at times, sat for up to nine hours continuously with no ill-effect.
A good rule of thumb is change your posture if it hurts.
kind regards

Ben


That seems extreme and dangerous to me, are you actually talking about sitting mostly motionless for 9 hours?
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Sobeh » Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:55 pm

I'm not entirely sure why anyone thinks sitting motionless for nine hours would be any more dangerous than sleeping for that length of time. Certainly there must be subtle motion here and there in both cases, if for no other reason than to prevent pressure sores, but in either case the term 'motionless' applies.

In fact, the nesajjika dhutanga is a voluntary ascetic practice that involves not sleeping stretched out, instead sleeping propped against a wall or even in a seated meditation posture.
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:12 pm

Check out a time lapse sleep video. Sleeping is more physically active than most people might think. It is not at all motionless, not even nearly so.
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:20 pm

Sobeh wrote:I'm not entirely sure why anyone thinks sitting motionless for nine hours would be any more dangerous than sleeping for that length of time.


"Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a type of blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg or groin, and it occurs commonly on flights lasting longer than eight hours. Hundreds of thousands of people develop this clot, often termed economy class syndrome, as a result of sitting still too long, and many of them have perfectly healthy arteries [source: Ohio]. Most people develop tiny clots that don't produce any symptoms and dissolve slowly, causing no problems at all. Some people, though, end up with a clot that can cause death."

Source http://health.howstuffworks.com/healthy ... ttack1.htm
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:10 pm

Hello MOrlOck, all,

Naturally during a nine-hour sit, the meditator would change position slightly and maybe rearrange the legs. The legs and knees are fully supported by the floor and cushions. They are not hanging down (as in travelling in a car or airline). Many meditators sit for long hours, particularly during 10 day or longer Retreats.

Factors that would contribute to venous stasis (or slowing the flow of blood) would include pregnancy, inactivity, surgery, obesity, injury, or varicose veins. A very common cause of stasis is sitting for a long time with one's legs hanging down. This is many times done in a long trip in the car or bus or train.
http://www.vascdocs.com/health/blood_clots.shtml

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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:13 pm

Morlock sitting continuousy does not mean maintaining the same posture without moving for nine hours.
kimd regards

Ben
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:53 pm

Ben wrote:Morlock sitting continuousy does not mean maintaining the same posture without moving for nine hours.
kimd regards

Ben


Ok. What i meant to ask then: Does anyone know what the safe limits are for one sitting session when one does not change postures and remains almost completely motionless?

Gosh this seemed a pretty simple question when i first thought of it :)
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Guy » Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:16 pm

Hi Morlock,

I have heard of a monk who was supposed to lead a meditation retreat, on the first sitting of the first day he entered a very deep meditation, didn't move for the whole retreat (I think it was 9 or 10 days) and then apologized to the retreatants for not giving any Dhamma talks - to which they replied "just seeing you sitting there was more than inspiring!"

Sounds impossible? Didn't the Buddha himself talk about sitting for 7 days and 7 nights? I am sure there have been many many cases of this happening with no ill-effects.

With Metta,

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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby bodom » Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:21 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
Ben wrote:Morlock sitting continuousy does not mean maintaining the same posture without moving for nine hours.
kimd regards

Ben


Ok. What i meant to ask then: Does anyone know what the safe limits are for one sitting session when one does not change postures and remains almost completely motionless?

Gosh this seemed a pretty simple question when i first thought of it :)


The Buddha is said to have sat for seven days without moving at M 1 94, Vin 1 1, Ud 1-3, Ud 10 and Ud 32. Also a nun at Thi 44 and Thi 174 sits for seven days straight. Im assuming of course they were sitting in jhana and were not experiencing bodily sensations. Kids do not try this at home.


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Sobeh » Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:01 pm

There's video of a young boy sitting in meditation for a number of days (a Discovery Channel investigation which can be found here); time-lapse shows a similar sort of motion as during sleep time-lapse. One of the medical professionals viewing the tape even remarks on this fact (I think this was in the last section, part 5 of 5).

Thus, with proper posture, I still see no reason why seated meditation is any more dangerous than sleep.
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:23 pm

without looking at the vid, while reading tilts post I thought of Buddha Boy who had a time lapse camera on him for a number of hours, only at night he couldn't be seen due to light and distance.
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby Sobeh » Mon Mar 29, 2010 4:51 am

Yup, that's the one. Despite the valid film issues you mention (to say nothing of the various claims made about the boy himself), decent lighting is present for at least the 9 hours in question here.
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Re: Duration of meditation session and health

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:42 pm

Thank you all. This has been informative for me in ways i wouldnt have thought possible when i first asked the question.
:bow:
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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