How Much Meditating Is Enough?

meditatingI recently had the good fortune to attend a mini meditation workshop with Sharon Salzberg. It was hosted by her publisher, Workman, in celebration of the release of her most recent book, Real Happiness. I was excited to go because:

1) I love her.
2) I’ve been meditating more lately.
3) I knew it would be a nice jolt of reassurance to help me keep meditating.

What I didn’t anticipate was that I would have a chance to have Sharon answer one of my pressing questions about meditation.

The practice I’ve managed to establish lasts about 10 minutes a day. I do it the one time of day when I know I’ll be in a quiet room, sitting down, with nothing to do but think: each night while I’m nursing the baby to sleep. Except for those nights when he’s fussy, it works.

I am really happy about this development in my life. It has become such an important piece of my daily self-care practice. I notice that my mood is lighter, I’m less likely to get bogged down in complaining, and compassionate thoughts arise more effortlessly.

I’ve been doing this routine for a couple of months now. And I was starting to wonder, how long will those 10 minutes continue to be enough? Of course we’ll all go through periods where our time to focus on ourselves is limited, and during those times we’ll have to eke out whatever self-care we can to hold a place for a richer practice when we emerge on the other side. But when do you need to commit to a deeper self-care practice, even though life is busy, because a calmer time may not be coming?

So during the Q&A portion of Sharon’s talk, I raised my hand. I told her I used to meditate pretty regularly before I had kids, but now it was all I could do to meditate 10 minutes a night while I put the baby down. Then I asked, “How much meditating is enough meditating?”

My inner curmudgeon expected her to giggle and say, “You call THAT a meditation practice?!?” That’s why I was delighted when she congratulated me on what I’ve managed to establish. She said if I wanted to build on that, I could start to notice times during the day when my mind has gone off in to la-la land and consciously decide to bring my focus back to whatever was happening in that moment. I can handle that.

It all got me thinking on how we can tell when what we’re doing is enough, and how we can tell when we’re ready to put in a little more time and effort. For me, the most reliable way to know that it’s time to turn up the volume on your self-care practice is to notice that you aren’t feeling your best, mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually, and that you are craving feeling a little more whole. It’s all about the sincere desire for change—meditating more simply because you feel you should isn’t going to keep you motivated over the long-term.

What about you?
Is there something you wish you were doing more of? Or something you’re doing that you’re really proud of, even if it’s not happening seven days a week?

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment. If I publish your thoughts in the next Vegimental, I’ll send you a copy of Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Happiness. The book is a great guide to establishing a robust meditation practice in 28 days. Even better, it comes with a CD of guided meditations.

Take care and keep breathing,


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11 thoughts on “How Much Meditating Is Enough?

  1. First thing in the morning I light a single candle, sit comfortably in a chair and
    focus on the flame with an open heart for five or ten minutes. Sometimes I clear my
    mind of all thoughts, sometimes pray, sometimes ponder a certain topic. Somehow this
    small amount of time helps me be more at peace for the rest of the day and more
    patient with others…

  2. Hi Kate;
    I too desire to have a regular meditation practice, but have not been sticking to a routine for more than a couple of days at a time. I work full time and have three teenagers and a husband – busy & noisy house – mornings come quickly and start pretty early as it is – and evenings are usually pretty full too! SO, I have stopped beating myself up for not regularly meditating and started congratulating myself when I do manage to “sit” for a spell. HOWEVER, I have started praticing something that is really simple and working well for me! When my brain becomes squirrelly and my thoughts are causing me upset, I mentally put each thought as it arises it the “Inbox” in my mind. I picture it travelling either to a “read soon” folder, an “unread” folder because it’s a new thought, or – and this is my favorite and most used folder – the “deleted items” folder! I also practice being mindful as much as I can during the day and saying prayers of gratitude. It’s fabulous! My resolution this year is to be more gentle with myself and this is a big step toward not being hard on myself for not “sitting on a cushion” every day. Many Blessings to you and your family and keep up the good work with your articles! :o)

  3. My need for more activity and exercise was becoming very evident but like everyone, where do you fit it in and make it enjoyable? I have started two practices that are helping. I bought Dance Dance for the kids WII and it is so much fun! Plus I am learning dance moves I didn’t know. Also during commercials on TV it is my call to get up and move. I march in place, do jumping jacks, stretches, yoga moves, whatever I can think of. It’s amazing how it all adds up. Even if I’m busy doing something around the house in the evening while the kids are watching TV, I try to keep an ear open for the commercials to ramp up my activity. I find since I have started this that I am more mindful of my diet as well and my extra pounds are starting to come off and I don’t have to drive to or pay for my gym membership anymore. Saving money and the time getting to and from the gym is a bonus.

  4. Thanks for this Kate!
    I’m not sure we can call it a meditating practice but as a new mom of a (kinda fussy) 3mo old I have tried to be more and more aware of what *energy* I’m bringing when I hold her – especially when she’s fussing. I’ve noticed that when I’m trying to calm her instead of rocking her to the rhythm of her fast breathing (which is my instinct sometimes) when I remember to slow down and slow my own breathing to be relaxed the baby often calms within moments. I actually concentrate on sending my calming breathing rhythm to her (hey, at least it takes my mind off the fussy baby in my arms).
    Always look forward to my weekly vegimentals!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. As a busy mom and birth doula, I spend most of my time taking care of everyone else. Mindfulness meditation has been suggested to me by health care providers & I have felt so judged for not being able to carve out an hour a day for yoga, meditation or some other self care. I am so grateful for still having a nursling. Those times are the only times I can sit down, take some deep breaths and just enjoy this time in my life that us passing too quickly. Thank you for this reminder that we can only do our best, and for tips on how to extend this little by little.

  6. I have recently started a sitting practice. Originally, I gave myself 30 minutes, setting my bedside radio sleep timer to chimes that would gradually fade off over half an hour. This was to allow time for the loving kindness mantra suggested as a start for my meditation (it lasts about 5 minutes). The past week, I’ve tried changing the timer to 15 minutes, to see what would happen, and I found I really need the extended time. At the end of 15 minutes, I often continue with my breathing after the chimes stop because it actually feels necessary to do so. I’m so glad I started with more, not less!

  7. A beautiful post, Kate!
    I am REALLY proud to say that since Yoga Journal was proposing a 21-Day challenge (started Jan. 10), I took them up on it. I actually got a headstart and have practiced yoga daily since Jan. 7! My practice had really been down to very little, since my job is so demanding (which is why I need to practice so badly!). Well, I had every excuse in the book, and was not making time for it, and I was suffering. So I decided that “daily practice” for me meant minimum 15 minutes asana (they offer daily videos, but I am doing my own thing). One day so far was 15 minutes, but the rest of the time I have found that I have had more eagerness to be in my living room space in the morning (if i don’t get it done first thing, it’s pretty hard to fit it in), and have had some beautiful practice time. I’m also taking a whole self-care vacation next week and going up to Kripalu for 5-day Iyengar retreat with Kofi Busia, and I can’t wait. Essentially what I want to report is that the effect of my morning practice–now consistent–on my mood, ability to clearly handle challenges at work (more of them go in the “petty” box now!), general outlook (less depressed and anxious) , sense of perfectionism (less hard on myself!) dietary choices….has been amazing. I am continually humbled and inspired by the amazing gift of yoga. It’s all right here in our hands.

  8. Thanks for this encouraging post. In the past few months, I’ve “flipped the script” on how I start my mornings. I used to get up and workout (brisk walk, treadmill,strength training) to get started. However, lately I practice yoga as soon as I wake up. While my body gently unfolds and becomes fully engaged, my gentle breathing becomes meditative. I’m convinced this new ritual is the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. And I didn’t even make one single resolution this year!

  9. I’m struck by the convergence of physical and spiritual in what you are doing. Nothing, NOTHING in my life since has recreated the feeling I had in nursing my sons. Please know that by choosing those minutes, you have done to meditation what — in my opinion — nothing else might be able to do. You are spiritual and physical. You are sharing and yet alone. You are giving and receiving. In a phrase, you are blessed. Wish I’d thought of it!

  10. I wish that I was expressing my gratitude to the people around me more often. I have improved by leaps and bounds at observing and noticing the things I am grateful for, but have not been expressing this gratitude aloud…I think it could really help strengthen some of my relationships (and there is also something powerful about saying the words out loud in your own voice–like reciting a mantra.)

  11. One of the best times I’ve found to meditate is when I’m running on the treadmill. I run until the only thing I can ‘hear’ inside my head is my breathing and my feet hitting the treadmill. I feel cleansed afterward, mentally and physically.

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