When to Stop Meditating

I used to meditate an hour or more a day. Then for long stretches of time I stopped meditating at all. If I couldn’t really have an expanse of time, what was the use of meditating for ten minutes?

Stopping can be viewed many ways, a biochemical defect, a bad habit of quitting that got triggered in childhood. For me, stopping was always hard, stopping reading a good book, stopping in the middle of writing once I’d gotten over the incredible hump of starting, stopping some project. But really, it wasn’t the stopping that was hard, it was the starting. So stopping meditation was really more the result of not finding conditions suitable enough for starting.

But in the last few years, I’ve shifted, eased up on the whole notion of perfection. A good five or ten minutes is way better than no minutes at all. Same with writing or making art. I have a new relationship to meditation and taken it out of its mystical hiding place and holy aura. I give it importance, though perhaps no more so than making a cup of tea, which is a contemplative way to start the day. I know this may sound terribly mundane and not spiritual at all.

So now I sit, breathe deeply and meditate, moved by the pure desire just to do so. More often than not, my inner timer knows when to stop. I feel refreshed and get up. Meditation still frames my day. Knowing when to stop is a learned habit and it takes practice. Transcend time’s tyranny and try this:

Find a moment in the day that feels suitable for sitting in meditation without interruption. It doesn’t have to be to get over something (fatigue, dread, stress) or go somewhere else (anywhere but here). Allow your inner clock to start and stop your practice. How does it feel? How much time feels right? Apply this principle to another activity not rigidly bound by time, like writing, running, or making music. Do not apply it to a job interview, catching a train or theatre performance.

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About sheilaklewis

As a writing coach, meditation teacher, writer, and academic tutor, I'm passionate about words and the silent spaces between words. In this context, I run book clubs and writers' groups where the resonance of carefully crafted words can spark readers and writers to share their own stories. Connecting through conversation; making memories matter; embracing editing and revision, and imaginative wordplay are some solo and collective outcomes. I came to what I call my "Meditate Write Now" practice after years of art-making, writing grants, curriculum, children's stories, and more. Meditation kept my mind from meandering too far off point and also led me to write from the still point within. May our paths cross in creative journeys across time and internet connections! Other details: My husband and I are the parents of two amazing sons and one daughter-in-law, and smitten grandparents of Micah (born December, 2013). I don't drive, and have lived in the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for too long.
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6 Responses to When to Stop Meditating

  1. Kathleen says:

    Completely agree! Power meditations are like power naps–10 minutes can be rejuvenating.

  2. Susan G. says:

    This is very helpful. I especially like these lines: “A good five or ten minutes [of meditating] is way better than no minutes at all. Same with writing or making art.” So helpful. I also love the way you point out that anxiety about stopping is really anxiety about starting. So true.

  3. Yes, I consider a ten-minute meditation or creative visualization a good one!

  4. Alice says:

    I love this! I need to hear this over and over again. And tying it to something I already do, like 10 minute naps. Somehow, I have to find some way to get started or to continue on my own, after doing it once, after someone sits me down to do a meditation.

    • sheilaklewis says:

      all you need to do is post a “Remember to meditate” sticker by your computer, and especially with your schedule, Alice, take teeny little breaks whenever you can (not while driving). You can do this on your own if need be. Thanks for commenting!

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