Rising to the Challenge of a 2 1/2 Hour Meditation

 Photo by Vik Singh Taak

Photo by Vik Singh Taak

All you need is a heart and determination to do
— Yogi Bhajan

Despite knowing that there is tremendous potential for self-healing during a 2 ½ hour mediation, if you find the idea of meditating for such a long period of time unappealing, you are not alone. It is fair to say that almost every Kundalini Yogi, at one stage or another, has balked at the prospect of doing a 2 ½ hour meditation.  It’s a long time to sit!  So how do you rise to the challenge?

You want me to sit for how long?!

Funny, unlike meditation, when it comes to work or play, we don’t usually have a problem with sitting, for any amount of time. We don’t normally get anxious about the idea of sitting through a long film or a concert or when faced with a long day at the office.  For most of us, sitting in and of itself is not an issue. Why does sitting become a problem when contemplating meditation? For a start, you must confront your ego. The mind doesn’t want to be contained for so long. Creative, as ever, your mind may come up with a long list of reasons why you couldn’t or shouldn’t do the meditation, from a shortage of free time to physical ailments. Or maybe your mind will fixate on just one BIG reason like the seeming impossibility of sitting on your bum for so long. These are all things you can overcome.

Getting comfortable

It isn’t necessarily comfortable to sit cross-legged on the floor for 2 ½ hours. But the idea isn’t to suffer. There are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Having something soft to sit on will make your meditative experience much more enjoyable. Especially if your hips are tight and easy pose is not so easy for you, sitting on a cushion or block(s) can help keep your body in alignment and take pressure off your hips and knees. You can also use cushions or blocks to support the sides of your legs which can help ease some of the pressure on your hips. Sitting on a wool mat or sheepskin can help to keep you insulated and also gives a little extra cushioning.  Wrapping yourself in a shawl or blanket will help you stay warm.

While the ultimate goal may be to sit as still as you can, if you are not used to meditating for such a long time, be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to stretch out your legs from time to time or even for the whole time. For those who can’t sit on the floor, you can get the same benefits, sitting in a chair. If you need to get up and walk around, by all means do so (please leave the meditation room with grace so as not to disturb the others). Blood pressure usually drops during meditation which might make you feel lightheaded. If you experience this, you might need to walk or even jump around a little to get the blood moving (simply excuse yourself quietly form the meditation room if you need to do this).

Drinking water, especially when chanting for so long, is important. You want to keep yourself hydrated and your vocal chords lubricated.

Isn’t it boring to repeat the same words over and over and over?

Almost as daunting as sitting for so long is the prospect of repeating the same mantra over and over and over again. Isn’t it boring? Sometimes, yes.  In fact, boredom is a recognized stage of meditation. Other stages include upset, irritation, and frustration along with delight, elevation and enlightenment. It’s a bit like a journey. You may start out having fun but a few minutes into it you start to wonder with whining impatience “when are we going to get there?” and “how much longer?” You may get frustrated but suddenly find yourself excited to be on this journey, then just as suddenly bored once more.  

Where’s my mind off to now?

Meanwhile, your sneaky mind may be concocting all sorts of scintillating thoughts to distract you. A barrage of thoughts popping up during meditation is completely normal. Even experienced yogis go through it. The key is not to attach to the distracting thoughts. One minute you might be meditating, the next minute you’ll be contemplating in great detail what you will eat at your next meal or analyzing a conversation at work or contemplating a personal relationship or fixating on a noise in the room or all of the above. The trick is to acknowledge each thought as it emerges and let it go. Refocus on the mantra.

As you let thoughts go, stay in tune with the posture, the mudra, the movement. So much happens physically as you chant. Even when you are not actively moving your body, the process of transformation is very dynamic. If you stay focused on the mantra and the physical act of chanting, including the movement of your navel point, your mouth and tongue, the vibration of the sounds and the impact all of these actions are having on the entirety of your being, you can become engrossed in the meditative experience. And when you come into this state of awareness, the mind becomes still and you start to access your higher consciousness.

In short

Not everyone will choose to take on a 2 ½ hour meditation but everyone is welcome to try. There are ways to make yourself comfortable in a seated position so you can focus on the challenge of training your mind. And through this challenge, by overcoming your resistances of the mind and meditating deeply, you may well find priceless rewards including peace of mind, clarity, grace, and the joy of reconnecting with your true self.