After a bumpy start, I now meditate daily. Mostly, these are unguided sessions using just my phone as a timer: 15-minute ones on weekdays, 25-minute variations on weekends.
This creates a paradox: meditation should not be about performance, but using a timer does precisely that. I find myself wanting to reach the set time and not "give up," or, on the flip side, not wanting my session to end.
A Buddhist monk would probably say that the meditator who pushes himself to sit for an hour, thinking that makes him a "better" meditator, still has a lot to learn.
I had been wondering about this paradox for a while. I noticed a tendency to push myself to meditate longer (to be "better"). At the same time, I didn't always enjoy extended sessions and was anticipating the sound of the alarm to mark the endpoint. Then I read Chris Bailey's The Productivity Project. He lets his timer count upwards instead of down and checks at the end how many minutes he did. This seemed like a potential solution.
I tried the upwards strategy for a few days. Still the same problem: while there was no alarm to "work towards," I couldn't help "pushing" myself by taking note of the time at the end of the session.
Then it dawned on me: I should just get rid of the clock all together!
Who cares whether I meditated for five minutes or an hour? The latter is unlikely to happen anyway given my track record. And if my mind feels like it has had enough after only five minutes, that should also be fine.
I now have no idea how long I meditate and it's wonderful. I get up, write a bit, then start my meditation. Once I feel like I'm done with it I study some Chinese (using Skritter), do my daily exercise (running or 7-minute workout app), then start the day. When I look at a clock, it's impossible to determine how much time I spent meditating and it's great: no pressure to "perform" on meditation, the way it should be.
Would you also like to let things go? Not focus on being 'perfect' all the time? We've got just the course for you:
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