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One of our most frequently asked questions is a version of this:
What's better, meditating 5-10 minutes every day or an hour a few times a week?
First, we'll answer the question.
There's a quote that states "Consistency is better than rare moments of greatness." This applies to meditating. If you meditate a few times a week for an hour, but don't do anything else, it will do you little good. It's better to meditate 5-10 minutes every day (even better to meditate 5-10 minutes several times a day).
Next, we'll tell you why the question is irrelevant and usually indicates a misunderstanding of why you should meditate.
The dedicated exercise of meditating is meaningless if you don't strive to be mindful when you aren't meditating. Mindfulness is the application of the skills you develop when you meditate.
When you meditate, you learn to watch your thoughts and emotions as they arise. You come to realize they are temporary phenomena, and - if you don't attach to them - they will pass the same as they arise. Don't cling to what you label "positive/pleasant," or push away what you label "negative/unpleasant" - simply watch it all come and let it all go.
As Thich Nhat Hanh states:
"An emotion comes, stays for a while, and goes away, just like a storm. If you’re aware of that, you won’t be afraid."
This is the essence of meditation - cultivating awareness of your mind-made activity as it arises and passes (comes and goes). But, in order to reap any benefits, you need to apply this awareness to your daily life when you aren't meditating; you need to be mindful.
How can you be mindful?
Throughout the day, check to see where you attention is at: is it captured by something from the past (leading to regret, depression, etc.), or something in the future (leading to stress, anxiety, etc.). Or, is it in an alternate reality that you are using to escape the present moment (fantasizing, day-dreaming, etc.)?
As you check, if you find that you aren't grounded in the present moment, simply move your attention back to what is happening right here and now.
If you need help remembering as you go about your day, here are several reminders you can utilize:
So, consistency trumps infrequent, longer sessions when it comes to meditating. But, what's critical is to apply the skills you develop to your "non-meditating" time.
Awareness-based therapy (ABT)
Do you struggle with thoughts and emotions? Our online, self-paced program can help. It teaches you how your mind works, and provides a path to move beyond "coping" to achieving and maintaining a more consistent state of well-being.
Find out more about the ABT program here.
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