Dynamic tension between relaxation and concentration


How can I sit for long time in meditation?

—deepak kumar pradhan, INDIA


Dear Friend,

How long one should meditate is one of the most frequent questions asked but for all of that, it remains elusive.

For meditation is successful only to the extent we can hold the razor’s edge of our relaxed attention. Between relaxation (which might incline towards a subconscious state) and attention (which might incline towards tension) there exists a kind of dynamic tension necessary to sharpen our focus in the right way.

One tempting way to answer your question is to respond by saying, “Mediate as long as enjoyable.” But a beginning meditator may need to exercise some consistent self-discipline first before achieving that and a more experienced meditator will discover that consistency and loyalty of practice is necessary for longer, deeper meditations even if, in both cases, neither is possible long-term without the obvious experience of in-joy-ment!

It is better to meditate with calm focus for a shorter amount of time than to drive oneself by the clock for the mental abstraction that one’s meditation should be longer. So, try meditating for as long as you can be present with the experience. When your interest and concentration wanes, it may be time to finish up. This way a part of you will look forward to the next opportunity to mediate and you will not incite a subconscious rebellion!

Even more useful is to set for yourself a lower limit of time below which you will not go each day. Put another way, set for yourself a realistic range of time that you hold for yourself as a goal, for at least the present, for daily meditation. Be realistic but also be affirmative: again, another razor’s edge, finding middle ground between merely comfortable and so aggressive as to guarantee failure.

I’ll go out on a limb (as I do not know you or your temperament or circumstances) and say that a beginning meditator should try to meditate twice a day, between 10 and 20 minutes each sitting. That’s not hard and fast but it’s a guideline.