What is Meditation?
Time to Meditate
Maybe you’re just starting your meditation practice or perhaps you just want to make a schedule adjustment to your current one. Either way, you may be wondering what time of day is the best time to meditate. The answer, just like meditation itself, is both simple and complex. There’s no one answer that works for everyone, since obligations and lifestyles vary from person to person. You might start by asking yourself these two questions:
What am I seeking through meditation?
There are innumerable benefits to meditation, from stress relief to body positivity. By focusing on the main goals you personally hope to achieve through your practice, you can more easily find a time that suits you. Although your goals might differ, some common aims are covered below.
Stress reduction - One nearly universal source of stress is the workplace. Working can be hard on our bodies, whether we’re locked in the same typing position all day or hauling boxes around a warehouse. Most of us don’t have the luxury of choosing our coworkers or clients either. Interpersonal relations on the job can be frustrating, especially if other things in our lives are causing our emotions to run high.
If the intent of your practice is to reduce stress, you may want to take some time to sit after work. This creates a conscious transition point from work mode to relaxation mode. Meditation releases tension and helps you identify where in the body you carry stress. Do you bunch up your shoulders or clench your knees? Focusing on what your body needs during mediation and intentionally relaxing those areas will relieve stress in the body as well as the mind. By sitting and observing your body’s demands, you can also discover what you may need to adjust during the work hours to avoid some of those aches and pains in the future.
Mental focus - It’s easy to lose focus when we’re stressed out or have to multi-task under a deadline. Perhaps you’re going through a difficult transition - a move or a breakup, for example - that has you preoccupied. Maybe you’re working on a presentation but keep getting interrupted by phone calls. Are you trying to coordinate house repairs while wrangling your children?
If you seek to refresh your mind so that you’re prepared to tackle your task list, a natural time to sit would be in the morning. One essential part of meditation is awakening the mind and focusing your attention. Morning meditation can help make you more alert, clear your thoughts, and start the day feeling positive. Practicing in the early hours may also help to dislodge any unsettling dreams.
Realignment - Sometimes, we allow these stresses and distractions to build up during the week, creating tension and discomfort both mentally and physically. It can be that the worst feeling for you isn’t the extremes, but somewhere in the middle; that sense of vague discord and unease. It’s often difficult to overcome even mild obstacles when we’re uncomfortable to begin with. When we’re annoyed or irritated, an innocent comment from a loved one can feel like a big deal.
Finding moments for brief meditations throughout the day, in addition to your regular, more sustained practice will help to prevent tension build-up. Just ten minutes of meditation during your lunch break or before picking up the kids from daycare may serve to realign your thoughts and get rid of some tension. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a safe environment when you meditate. Don’t try it at a stoplight or in a busy bus station.
When am I most likely to practice meditation?
In all honesty, you won’t reap any of the benefits of meditation if you don’t actually meditate. So, if you aren’t a morning person and like to get up with just enough time to dress and head out the door, you probably won’t find morning meditation a good fit. Likewise, if you like to settle in right after the kids go to bed, meditating in the evening may not be suitable for you.
Take an honest look at your existing schedule and determine when you’re most likely to sit and focus. Maybe you like to hit the gym after putting in time at the office. Carving out ten minutes before or after your workout could help you transition and focus on the parts of your body that need attention. Instead of turning on the TV after dinner, you might set a time limit. Just watch one episode and then shut off the tube and meditate instead of binging through a whole season.
It’s important that you chose to practice your primary meditation period at the same time each day. Pull up your calendar and see what you can rearrange, eliminate, or offload to make a space for yourself to sit and breathe. Put this daily moment on your calendar so that you don’t unintentionally schedule something that interferes with your practice. For some of us, this may be a challenge. Keep in mind your goals for meditation, your intention to improve your wellbeing, and the benefits you’ll reap from being a more relaxed, centered person. Once you’ve carved out a space of “you time,” you’ll find all of your daily challenges are that much easier to handle.