As I was completing a 300-hour yoga training with one of my teachers, Adam Whiting, we were given an assignment to meditate for 20 minutes each day.
“But wait a minute,” I thought to myself. “What about all those Pinterest articles I’ve read about 3 or 5-minute meditations? Why can’t we start with that?”
Sure, some meditation is better than nothing, but to really let your body settle and to let your mind work towards a state of ease (even there’s no guarantee it’s going to happen no matter how long you take a seat) – it takes more than a few minutes, Adam explained.
And just like we dedicate up to an hour (or even more!) for a physical workout, our brains deserve that kind of attention too. So, the guidelines were a little more strict. Twenty minutes a day, every single day.
The ultimate goal: Don’t set a timer. Just sit.
Although I knew it would be a challenge to “just sit” when I was told this would be one of the assignments (and one that we were told to report back on each day of the training as a measure of accountability), I’m always up for a challenge, and I was fascinated by the request to not set an alarm.
And so, I sat.
Not always first thing in the morning. Sometimes it was the last thing before bed because the entire day had gotten away from me. Sometimes it felt super unsuccessful – my monkey mind was everywhere. Sometimes my legs fell asleep.
Each day of training, we reported back about how the meditation went. Instead of labeling it as “good” or “bad” we tried to describe the practice as “gratifying” or “not gratifying.” This was because there were likely going to be many more stories of it not going “well” than, say, feeling complete Zen, but achieving a complete meditative state wasn’t the goal. It was about the process and learning to find peace within discomfort along the way.
Plus, through a few tips and tricks from meditation practitioners and teachers like Rod Stryker, I had a few “good” days, too. Had I not sat for as long as I did, I likely wouldn’t have experience the same level of success. Plus, the ritual of setting up a regular practice to be still and see what comes up was invaluable.
I can’t say that I still, after many months of this training concluding, I meditate every day. And I’m not about to sit here and type out the benefits of meditating daily when I don’t practice what I preach.
What I can say is that I’m really happy I’ve spent more than just a few minutes exploring it. It does take time. It’s going to take even more time for me to find the right type of meditation practice that works best for me. But I know in my gut, now, after sitting for 20 minutes daily that there is definitely no way to shortcut this journey. The only way to find comfort in stillness is to sit through discomfort. No quick fixes or 3-minute meditation life hacks.
And perhaps the best little piece of advice I received was that if I thought to myself “I don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes,” then I should clear my schedule for an hour.