When I started meditating back in 2015, it was not easy to incorporate a regular practice into my daily routine. Perseverance finally paid off after long months of stubborn dedication, when sitting for 20 to 40 minutes every day turned essential for my wellbeing. It has been 7 years since my first sitting, and I have learned much about myself through experimentation with different types of meditation. I have found that long sittings – for over 90 minutes – seem to affect my thinking, emotions and behaviour in ways never experienced by me before. That aroused my curiosity. What would happen if I tried meditating for long hours every day? The following are the changes I have experienced from meditating for 3 hours a day for 4 weeks:
Less reactivity: mediating for long hours has allowed me to experience serenity in a natural way. Negative emotions come and go in short waves. Because their intensity has become much lower, they have become more tolerable.
Fewer negative thoughts: there is a time during a long sitting when my mind becomes completely quiet. Thoughts about the future and reassessment of past events are replaced by a sense of being in my mind and body, often felt as one. At times, I also feel that sense of unity with the environment. After a practice is over and in between practices, negative thoughts seem to continue to lose their power. They occur less frequently and seem irrelevant when noticed.
Better concentration: due to decreased emotional reactivity and greater emotional detachment, my brain feels less rigid and more plastic. As if meditation nurtured a cognitive state of flow. I seem to be able to retrieve, analyse, process and organise knowledge faster and with more ease.
More patience: living a slow-paced life makes perfect sense when practicing meditation for long hours. I am able to connect with my environment as if autopilot had been turned off. I drive more slowly and enjoy noticing my surroundings without feeling restless. I also take more time to listen to others without a burning need to say something.
Better sleep: for someone who has battled insomnia for most of her life, I welcome healthy habits that favour sleep. A 3-hour a day meditation practice has not cured my insomnia, but it has considerably improved my relationship with it. I no longer have strong negative reactions if I wake up in the middle of the night, so I go back to sleep a lot quicker.
More confidence: experiencing fewer negative thoughts and greater detachment from negative emotions has allowed me to see things more clearly. A calmer and more balanced approach to life has made me feel unashamedly intelligent, awake, tranquil, tolerant and mature.
Detachment from material goods: I feel no need to buy what I do not need.
Worry about “wasting time”: despite all the above, my inner critic still gives me grief about my 3-hour meditation practice. The more I stick to it, however, and enjoy its benefits, the less I care about the critic’s silly comments.
I do not know how long I will manage to keep this practice up, or if it will ever become a habit, but its effects have been undoubtedly positive.