Monday, February 15, 2010

Five Minutes

My teacher, Peter Fenner, asks that his students engage in a "minimal contemplative practice" of twenty minutes a day. And he calls that practice "just sitting." No pressure. No rules. Just sit in one place quietly for twenty minutes each day.

No mantras, no breath counting, no lotus posture. (And no prohibition on any of those.) Whatever happens during those twenty minutes--focus, relaxation, distraction, frustration--is exactly what should be happening. You can't mess it up!

This is incredibly freeing. I have talked to a lot of people who have tried to meditate, and yet are convinced that they were "bad" at it or doing it "wrong."

There is no way to do "just sitting" wrong.

But I will say this. If you have never sat before, twenty minutes can be an incredibly long time to be still, no matter what you call it. Twenty minutes with nothing but your own thoughts can be uncomfortable (though, like many things that are good for you, a certain level of discomfort is part of the process). And many busy people feel that they do not have an "extra" twenty minutes in their day for something new.

But you can do five minutes, right? Even in today's hyper-busy reality, most everyone can find five minutes somewhere. (I find that it is easier to schedule my "must dos", including meditation and blog writing, at the beginning of the day.)

Is five minutes the basis of an ongoing practice? No. But five minutes a day can start the habit of sitting. It can get us used to the idea of observing our own thoughts. It can build a foundation to a more extensive inquiry into our lives. If you enjoy it, you will find yourself gradually devoting more time to it. And if you find it is not for you right now, you can always come back to it later.

Five minutes. Can you find five minutes today?


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