Saturday, July 30, 2011

Long Meditations

A few years ago when we were in the habit of  regularly walking, Clemency and I decided to walk from our place in Highgate to St. Clair Beach: ie. virtually from one side of town to the other. We weren't sure we were up to it and spent a week or two psyching ourselves into it. Then one Saturday we set out and .... er... we did it. It was all a bit of an anticlimax really. Our town is fairly small and walking from one side to the other only takes about an hour and a half. Have a coffee in one of St. Clair's myriad cafes, take a few snaps of the picturesque seaside and you can walk home again by lunchtime. We've done it many times since. The barrier to walking it and the difficulties of such an "enormous" trip were all in our heads, as are the barriers to doing a lot of things, such as meditating.  The thought that we might be able to sit still for 10 minutes (or 20, or 30, or 60 ) seems impossibly daunting until we actually just... do it. The barriers to doing it are all between our ears.

As a meditation practice develops  the ability and the desire to sit still for longer periods grows. It is important to have a regular regime of stillness, and whoever you learn from will probably tell you that 20 minutes twice a day is quite a good program to try for, but do whatever is manageable. It is best to be regular and committed to a program, even if your meditations are not really all that long; but it is helpful and will do a lot for your practice to occasionally try to be a bit more ambitious. If your usual meditation is 20 minutes, for example, have a shot at 40 minutes. Or an hour. The longer period allows for a deeper and richer   meditation and gives a better work out for  the associated disciplines of silence. All the usual positive side effects of meditation seem to increase, in a longer session, by multiplication rather than addition.  But whatever you do, be easy on yourself; meditation isn't an endurance contest. One way I have discovered of extending my meditation time is to break a longer period up: say, three twenty minute sessions separated by a 5 minute walking meditation gives the benefit of an hour long session but is easier on the knees.

Extend yourself. You might be surprised what you are capable of, and what it will do for you. 

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