I think that for most of us who meditate webecome obsessed at some point or another with the length of time that we sit. I knowI am particularly bad about this and have spent years timing myself, setting goals and tracking my “progress.” What often gets swept under the rug (only as far as I’m concerned–I certainly can’t speak to any one else’s experience) is the fact that the only progress that’s really being tracked is the length of time spent in sitting. And, although my average daily sitting time has slipped from its past heights of 50 minutes I feel that my attitude toward sitting has gotten much better.
Now, I’m not advocating that we sit only 5 minutes a day and call it quits but what I am saying is that we needn’t become so obsessed with hitting a certain number that we cause ourselves unnecessary suffering over it (something which I’m wont to do). For me, the one thing that has helped allay my anxiety over the length of each session is consistency of practice: I can count on myself to sit again and to put in effort. If my practice were not daily and I only had a day or to a week to devote to seated meditation I might find it considerably harder to be at ease with a 15 or 20 minute sit. But, if that were the case, I would need to learn t be a little kinder to myself wouldn’t I?
Anyway, the following from the Anguttara is one of my favorite teachings on the practice and how we should regard our practice when we become obsessed with measuring its results. May this be of some benefit!
Just as when a carpenter or carpenter’s apprentice sees the marks of his fingers or thumb on the handle of his adze but does not know, ‘Today my adze handle wore down this much, or yesterday it wore down that much, or the day before yesterday it wore down this much,’ still he knows it is worn through when it is worn through. In the same way, when a monk dwells devoting himself to development, he does not know, ‘Today my effluents wore down this much, or yesterday they wore down that much, or the day before yesterday they wore down this much,’ still he knows they are worn through when they are worn through.
— AN 7.67