How many hours a week do you meditate?

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

Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby Ben » Sat Feb 21, 2009 9:35 pm

Jechbi wrote:I used to have a schedule that allowed me to maintain a steady commitment of an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I did that pretty regularly (ever day) for a year or so. Then life intruded. You know, job, kid, business, the whole nine yards.

I didn't develop to the stage where I could reduce the hours of sleep to accommodate meditation time. Plus, I have to admit, sometimes I'm still afflicted with laziness. Lately there have been days when I don't formally sit at all, which is pretty shocking for me, because in my mind I'm seriously committed to practice.

In the approach that works best for me (Goenka), it's recommended to meditate for an hour in the morning, and hour in the evening, plus a short period before getting out of bed and before going to sleep, plus whenever you've got some extra time. When I found that I was unable to maintain this, I began asking an assistant teacher about it. In fact, I asked more than one, because I struggled with the issue for some time.

A got a couple of answers that I find useful. One assistant teacher encouraged me to meet these life circumstances with equanimity, recognizing that things are always changing. Another said that even a shorter period of meditation time can be effective.

One AT told me that the recommended length of time is intended to ensure that there are at least some moments of good concentration in there. He said that even just a few minutes of good concentration can suffice. (Not that that's an excuse to sit for shorter periods, of course.)

I have found that short periods of meditation can be very effective, but when I keep up a regular regimen of longer periods, it's much more beneficial. The balance, of course, is still finding time to fullfill my responsibilities to my family, employer, my clients, my friends, and myself. I can't just drop out (nor would I want to at this stage).

The question posed in this thread, "How many hours a week do you meditate?" strikes me in a very personal way, like a wake-up call. Thanks for asking.

Metta
:smile:


Hi Jechbi

I certainly know where you are coming from. Finding the time for the two one-hourly sits can be a real challenge, and it continues to be a challenge for me. In the past, I have set the alarm clock at 4am and 5am to get out of bed and meditate before my family got up and, again, late at night when everyone had gone to bed. I've found that trying to meet the challenge of maintaining daily practice did benefit me - regardless of the perceived quality of those sits. And I also found that when I made a sincere commitment to perfect my practice, it was like it suddenly became easier, or supported in some way.

As you know, part of the practice is to develop the paramitas, and you can develop the perfections by maintaining precepts and practice against the tide of one's conditionings and the dominant cultural distractions one is immersed in.

Recently while packing up a house and preparing to make an interstate move I just didn't get the opportunity to sit for a number of days. But I think I've come to a point in my practice that if, for one reason or another, if i don't make the evening or morning sit, I don't worry about it like I used to. I'm confident that my practice is firmly established in my life now.

So Jechbi, if your aspiration is to meditate two hours a day, I recommend that you see if you can juggle your various commitments and see if you can fit in the two one-hour sits at times when it won't adversely affect others, and if not, see if you can get out of bed an hour or so earlier than usual.
Metta

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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:28 am

Ben wrote:In the past, I have set the alarm clock at 4am and 5am to get out of bed and meditate before my family got up and, again, late at night when everyone had gone to bed.
Ben,

Were you getting enough sleep? Were you dragging throughout the day? I've often wondered if meditation time can somewhat substitute for sleep, but the one night I tried it, I was dragging the next day. :zzz:

Ben wrote:I've found that trying to meet the challenge of maintaining daily practice did benefit me - regardless of the perceived quality of those sits.
Did something happen to the quality when you were on that schedule?

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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 22, 2009 2:13 am

Hi AdvaitaJ

Unless I stayed up really late, I didn't find myself dragging my feet during that or the following day. Meditation can reduce your reliance on sleep but its something that happens gradually over time. Let it happen naturally and in the meantime, be economical with time and sacrifice those activities which are a waste of time - such as watching some television programs.

Vedana (sensation) is my primary object of meditation. One of the observations that I've made as a practitioner is that there appears to be little correlation between the perceived quality of a sit and the benefit we derive out of it. Vedana is a good indicator of what is going on at the mental level, however, over time we have developed preconceived ideas on what constitutes a 'good ' experience in life. Usually we associate sukha vedana (pleasant sensation) with good and desirable while we associate dukkha vedana as an indicator of the unpleasant, or low quality. In meditation, particularly vipassana, we are observing the phenomonology of experience with bare awareness, an awareness that is characterised by an active indifference or equanimity towards the object. We just observe. Quite often in meditation, we experience difficult states such as agitation, sloth & torpor, lustful thoughts, profound sadness, different kinds of physical pain, euphoria, the entire spectrum of experience. The trap many of us fall into is to associate a unpleasant mental state or the difficulty in maintaining mental equipoise and sampajjana (constant clear comprehension of the anicca characteristic) as a failure of being able to meditate properly or having a 'bad' session. If we continue to ascribe valuation to our experiences, then we do not come out of the habitual sankhara of blind reaction to sense stimuli.

So in answer to your question AdvaitaJ, I think during those times my meditation benefited in that I was more clearly apprehending the nature of what I was experiencing, regardless of the phenomenology of experience. But also, I was able to maintain my practice with the same energy and commitment. Things that were obstacles in the past just seemed to fade away.
I hope that answered your questions.
Metta

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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby Jechbi » Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:40 am

Thanks, Ben, for your very fine post.

What I have found in recent years is that for four or five days each week, literally from about 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., I am occupied with something, be it family, work, work at home, housework, grocery shopping, cooking, eating, showering, or whatever. Literally, most of my days are packed. I almost never watch television. Actually one thing I do for relaxation is that I read and post here on this board and (lately) over at the zen board. I guess I could cut those things out. And on those two or three days when my schedule isn't packed, I have more time for meditation.

About a year ago, I had some physical symptoms due to lack of sleep. Over the years, I've learned that I need to be careful about shorting myself on sleep (and to listen to my doctor with regard to sleep). I need about 6.5 to 7 hours a night at this stage, and it's better if I get 7.5 once in a while too. Otherwise, I become ill.

What I have learned about meditation is that for me personally, it's just better if I don't worry about it or beat myself up about it. You're correct that with regular meditation practice, a person needs less sleep, and I believe I'll work into that again. One great thing I have going in my favor is a very supportive spouse who lately has prompted me to take time to sit. She even bought a nice, top-notch cushion for me as a surprise. Obviously, she's trying to tell me something. But she also knows that my character is to push myself, sometimes too hard. She drives me nuts sometimes, but she keeps me sane, if you know what I mean.

One thing you wrote, Ben really resonates with me:
... there appears to be little correlation between the perceived quality of a sit and the benefit we derive out of it.
I'd take it even a step further: After those mindblowing-type sits that afterward make you think, holy crap, this really works (you know what I mean probably better than I do), it actually seems to harm practice if I think too much about that sit or aim for exactly the same thing again. These things come and go. If I have a tedious, aching sit distracted by a proliferation of thoughts right up till the end, I figure I've done my job. I sat. Then I take it (whatever it is) off the cushion and into the rest of life. Hopefully with stronger metta.

Two hours a day every day, yes, I'll get there again. This may not be quite the season for me. But seasons can change quickly. Meanwhile, I very much appreciate the encouragement and inspiration that I very often find here.

Metta
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby green » Sun Feb 22, 2009 4:09 pm

One can practice the Triple Gem recollections while sitting, standing, walking, working,playing etc...

So I would do formal sitting meditation for around 16 hours a week and do the recollections all other times -- whenever I don't have to have any exclusive concentration (when I have to complete something at work or study for a test)...but in between I've developed the habit of thinking of the recollections.
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby zavk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:28 am

Hi Ben and Jechbi (and others),

I'm also a student of Goenkaji, and I too am finding it a real challenge to sit twice a day. I am usually able to do it after a retreat but the momentum would gradually subside after a few months. I now only sit in the morning and only for 45min, not a full hour. But, I intend to keep working...

I too do not think there is much correlation between the perceived quality of meditation and the benefit I've derived out of it. In fact, the more I'm able to let go of the notion of quality the more I have been able to sit. And the more I sit, the more balance I find in my life.

I think some of the previous responses raise good points about not expecting too much in meditation. For me, the thrust of the practice is not in how 'deep' one goes. Rather, it is in the constant returning--the constant returning to the breath from moment to moment, the constant returning to the cushion from day to day, the constant returning regardless of how many times or how long I 'slip-up'--that produces 'results', that 'goes against the grain'. As I see it, the constant returning is both the condition and product of practice. And that is, perhaps, what makes it simple yet challenging... :meditate:

Metta,
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby nathan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:26 pm

Ajahn Chah's comments will certainly be born out in experience and in reflecting on ones development over time so it lends a lot of credibility to the thinking that he has done plenty of long and serious practice.

I can post some comments which may be helpful but I don't think I can give an honest answer to this kind of question anymore. Rather it has become increasingly clear that we may never be able to answer these questions in any way which presents an accurate picture of what the relationship is between the time we "practice meditation" and the "progress" we make with meditation.

When I "practice" meditation "for a long period"I usually sit in a very traditional way in the best possible posture and apart from the occasional small realignment of my spine I try to remain entirely still for the time. Since this works with the form I will usually focus on the concentration aspect more than I otherwise would. So stillness and calmness is one thing I try to cultivate in this sitting posture. If I am not trying to progress into deeper stillness and concentration I will turn to investigating the arising and passing of consciousness and sensation and so on.

In addition to this however I have increasingly been practicing much ongoing mindfulness while either walking or attending to whatever need be done and the best ongoing center for all of this attention is the breath because it informs all the rest of the attention very suitably. So this meditation can be practiced at all times and any time.

All together the practices are like any other and one increasingly finds themselves "improving" their skill in meditating. So what would have once been typical of states of mind in "meditation time" experience no longer arise there and others do. Sometimes states of mind or "kinds of mindedness" will no longer arise in daily life either and others which never arose in daily life do.

The question then becomes, what is the difference? Practicing meditation and an approach to making up your mind in one way or the other become increasingly indistinguishable. There are still states of mind which could be called in some way not meditation, but from a meditation POV it could be called a bad object or theme for meditation.

So it goes. I have had periods in my life where I really thought it would be great if the mind would just stop meditating all the time whether I liked it or not, particularly when in some real life situations and the POV adopted or refined in meditation were only making things more difficult. But even this kind of fatigue and difficulty proves valuable in due course so on the whole, in hindsight, I would say even what I don't like about the new changes in the mind is preferable to the old setups.

So, I would say it is like any other skill, for a time one "practices a way" of thinking or speaking or doing and then it becomes increasingly reflexive or the default way of so doing. So it is simply a matter of putting the time and effort in and not so much where or when or for how long. A two minute wait while the bank lineup shuffles along or you wait to pay for the groceries is potentially as valuable as a whole day of sitting practice. So long as you are clear on what your technique is and how to refine it and it is appropriate to the setting and so on, you can make use of any moment of the day to "practice". A regular discipline of some kind is very important I think, but then it is more a matter of the total time orienting the mind in this way than it is of how long the periods of doing so are.

If sitting I like a good sit, an hour or more, no more than three but only a few minutes is also fine. Sitting practice is always very helpful and beneficial. And then a nice walk. Then I can do it again if I like or do something else.

I say, take every moment you get like you are slowly burning down to the ground on fire like a candle. Would a candle wait until later to radiate its light because there is something better to do while it is burning now? That is why there are also contemplations on death and mortality and pain and so on, to develop a sense of urgency and so on. There is always a way to practice, so that is that mindfulness. We don't always have perfect forms arising, ideal forms are not always possible but we can note incremental overall improvements in the mind slowly as we go along.

There are challenges all along the way, but we learn how to deal with them and this contributes something to the next challenge so this can be either more motivation or less depending on how you want to use that understanding. I prefer to use the challenges as added incentive to keep going and keep learning rather than as a source of discouragement, then the ongoing challenge works to one's advantage.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby AlaskanDhamma » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:25 pm

To answer the original question, "how many hours a week do you meditate?" the answer is not enough.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace." -Buddha
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby alan » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:27 pm

30 minutes twice a day seems to be the minimum requirement for me. 3x45 is when it gets good. (I'm lucky to have a lot of free time). But the question I was thinking about today is "What is your ratio of studying to sitting?" Thought I'd ask it here and see if anyone picks this up.
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby fivebells » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:09 pm

At least an hour a day. Usually two hours.
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby adosa » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:40 pm

45 minutes or so each morning, same thing in the evening unless I get lazy, so I would say in the range of 8 to 9 hours. However my mindfulness off the cushion needs much work. But I've found if my dedication to formal sitting wanes I become heedless rather quickly.


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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby alan » Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:18 am

And what is the ratio of study time to sit time?
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:54 am

alan wrote:And what is the ratio of study time to sit time?

For me about 4 to 1, I'd guess. Need some adjustment there ...
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby fivebells » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:25 am

alan wrote:And what is the ratio of study time to sit time?
Close to zero. I ask questions when I get stuck on something. The answers are always roughly the same, though. :) This is really a very simple process.

But there was a lot more study when I started.
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby alan » Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:58 pm

What do you think is the ideal ratio?
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby fivebells » Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:36 pm

alan wrote:What do you think is the ideal ratio?
I personally think the ratio should be very, very low, because this is a practice, not a theory or religion. But I'm not theravadin. The general theravada answer might be different.
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:41 am

Greetings Fivebells,

Out of interest, have you ever observed your mindstates whilst studying?

Metta,
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby fivebells » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:55 am

Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by studying. Can you describe what it means in this context, please?
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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:58 am

Greetings Fivebells,

All I wanted to get at is that study and bhavana are not mutually exclusive activities.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: How many hours a week do you meditate?

Postby alan » Fri Oct 02, 2009 3:36 am

Fivebells, I define study as reading Suttas, essays or anything serious regarding Dhamma, including listening to talks. The context is obvious. It is your life.
We all know what sitting is--at least I hope so.
Anybody out there sit but not read? Read but not sit? Certainly there must be a balance, right?
So again I ask: what do you (all) think is the ideal ratio of study to sitting?
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