Meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years, and it has the backing of science for decades now. Even if you’re not a meditator, you’re probably aware of all the benefits it can bring to your life.
What you might not know, however, is that consistent practice is the most important thing. Even if that’s only five minutes most days. Of course, twenty to thirty minutes a day will yield better results. And twice a day is even better. But if you only do five minutes a day, it’s still worth it and can be of benefit to you.
Consider a meditation practice to be a mental and emotional fitness regime, which works similarly to a physical fitness regime. The fitness builds gradually over time, and short daily exercise gets you there quicker than ad hoc longer sessions.
So if you only have a few minutes to spare a day, it’s better to use them to meditate than to wait until the weekend when you can give yourself a longer session. (Although, feel free to have the longer sessions when you do have the time.)
In your short daily sessions, you give your body a chance to release some of the stress that it’s harboring. Often we have no conscious awareness of this happening, but with regular practice and some hindsight, most people see that they have experienced and benefitted from this.
Even though your mind will probably remain quite busy throughout, do not be discouraged or deterred. It doesn’t mean it’s not working or that you’re not doing it right. It’s our mind’s nature to be busy, and it’s normal for thoughts to continuously intrude while we’re trying to focus on our breath or mantra.
The point of meditation is to notice our wandering minds and bring them back to our chosen focal point. And to notice when they wander again and bring them back once more. And to notice this over and over until the time is up.
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. It’s called a practice for a reason.
Every time we practice, we give ourselves a chance to release a little of what isn’t serving us well. A little released every day is a good thing. If you only showered or took a bath once a week, you’d still wash your smelly parts on the days in between. Just like washing, meditation is a cleansing, self-care practice.
And like physical fitness, the benefits are cumulative. So five minutes today can be built upon with five more minutes tomorrow and the next day. Add to this, a few minutes each day increases the likelihood that you’ll keep it up for the long haul. Longer ad hoc sessions run the risk of being abandoned altogether.
None of this is to say that a longer daily sit isn’t recommended. As with anything, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. So, if you can, it is ideal to do 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and again in the early evening. All I’m saying is if your lifestyle currently makes that feel too challenging, then start with five minutes daily until you’re able to give it longer.
As a meditation teacher, it’s the biggest excuse I hear from people as to why they can’t or won’t develop a meditation practice. “I don’t have time.” But you can definitely find five minutes somewhere in your day.
You’ll probably even find yourself a little invigorated and more focussed when you resume whatever task you’ve taken a break from. And again, noticing the difference these few minutes makes can further encourage you to do it daily and maybe even carve out ten or fifteen minutes.
The magic of taking five minutes for ourselves is self-care in the present and improved well-being in the future. Surely that’s worth it?
Please be aware: while meditation is generally deemed safe for most people to practice, if you have an existing mental health problem, you should consult with your doctor before taking it up. And your instructor needs to be informed of your condition.