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Meditate even when they send in the clowns

May 15, 2017

Is it OK to start out with the idea that I’ll keep meditating until I don’t feel like doing it anymore, or should I choose a set period of time?  

89b25d9549b27d2ea95dd6fe8259b19fFirst of all, to some degree if you sit down to practice meditation, then it’s always OK. The real question is whether a certain approach is advisable and whether it supports a regular and beneficial practice. I can also tell you what would happen for me if I decided not to meditate for a set period of time and just meditated until I didn’t want to meditate. I believe my average time per meditation would be somewhere in the range of 30 seconds to a minute, tops.

As long as that’s where you’re aiming for your daily practice, go for it.

But most of us aspire for a tad more practice on a regular basis. The challenge is, of course, that the “not feeling like doing it” is simply a thought that the brain has offered up as if it is a truth. But what are thoughts anyway? Really, they’re just brain secretions. They have no inherent truth or fact to them, and they often come and go fairly randomly. When we settle in to the cushion or chair and allow our minds to settle as well, we can see the coming and going of this thought stream, and we don’t have to latch on to any given thought.

Setting a time to practice (even if it is a modest goal for you) allows you to have the stability of your intention (to stay in practice for a set time), which leaves you less subject to the impact of a random neuron firing that leads to an equally random thought entering your awareness. It is the stability that is developed through repeated encounters with all of the phenomena of attention—including ideas about having meditated enough—that deeply serves us in our daily lives when we are virtually bombarded with thoughts, feelings, sensations, and clowns. Well, the latter is a little less frequent, but remember, they don’t always wear makeup and big floppy shoes. They come in all forms and sometimes they’re kinda creepy.

(This piece originally appeared in Mindful magazine in the recurring feature “Am I Doing This Right?”)

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