Dear Donagh…, I notice your comments on meditation from time to time. I do a bit of meditation myself a couple of times a week. I'm just wondering now how much of it I should do. Is there a minimum and a maximum? What would you recommend? Thank you for your website. I find it a great help. Caroline
Dear Caroline, Thanks, that’s a question everyone has, once they begin a practice of meditation.
As I come downstairs many times a day I can't help noticing through a window an elderly couple in their house across the street. I noticed a vague question in my mind one day: Why are they always there? Then immediately I saw what a dumb question it was. They are there because they are at home. They don’t need a reason to be there; they would need a reason to be somewhere else, but they need no reason to be at home. Home is where you don’t need a reason to be. It helped me with meditation. Meditation is home. Meditation is when you are not away from your own reality. In computer language, it’s meant to be our default mode. Most things we do need a reason for doing them, but you don’t need a reason to meditate.
We sometimes find it hard to meditate, just as we are sometimes restless at home and looking for distractions such as TV. My home is only a house, not a real home, if I am unable to be quite unoccupied there when there is nothing that needs to be done. Meditation is the home of home. If I know that home and can return there anytime, I can be deeply at home no matter where I am.
Is there a recommended length of time for meditation; is there a maximum and a minimum? The ideal is that I would be fully present and at home in every moment of the day: that’s the maximum! The minimum is one instant! In practice we need to devote a certain amount of time consciously to just sitting in meditation every day. I could say to myself: I’ll just try to be aware in everything I do, so there’s no need to set aside a special time. But my every-minute awareness would be very wispy and shallow; and I would not be aware of that fact, because I would have nothing to compare it with. So it’s necessary to set aside a special time, and then try to bring that awareness into the rest of the day. How much time? I won't say, because I'm not you. To attempt too much too soon might give you a surfeit. Begin with a short time: 10 or 15 minutes. Then as time goes by, increase it. You will know from the inside what is the right length of time; meditation itself will teach you.
It’s very helpful to meditate with a group on a regular basis, if that's possible for you. Of course you are not limited to the amount of time the group spends in meditation. Somewhere between the minimum and the maximum is the optimum - that's the one to look for!
God bless the good work, Caroline.