There is a common question about meditation that I hear all the time. That question is: how long does it takes to work? And the question is usually asked in a slightly impatient manner. I can relate to that impatient feeling indeed. It was only years ago that I was doubting the effectiveness of meditation. Today, I can say very objectively that meditation is a great tool to clear my mind. And for those of you who has that question in mind, let me share my experience with you and try to answer your question now.
What Makes You Ask How Long Does It Takes for Meditation to Work
Let’s first define what it means to for meditation to “work”. I want to make sure the definition is clear because I have a feeling that media these days have slightly hype up the effect of meditation too much. I get why the media does that. There are more and more meditation related products in the world. And these products either pay media to create sponsored content. Let’s talk about the meditation app “headspace” for example. It is a mobile app that has attracted multiple rounds of investment. Although it’s nice to see the popularity of meditation goes up which allows it to reach more people, sometimes I feel that meditation and capitalism don’t seem to match well. Anyway, back to the topic, what does it mean for meditation to “work”. Meditation works when it allows you to make your mind more clear and calm. That’s it. That’s nothing fancy about this. So, for those who are saying that it still doesn’t work after having meditation daily for 2 weeks, are your mind getting more clear or are you expecting something else to magically happen?
Having a Clear Mind is Just Part of the Equation
If you are one of those who meditate because you want a more successful life, we are talking, because I am one of those people. I didn’t start because I want a more quiet life nor do I want to understand my life better. I did start because I heard that it is what many successful do. That may not sound good to many political correct people but it is what it is. Now, if you want a successful life, a clear mind is only part of the equation. So if you expect that meditation can give you success, it is going to disappoint you. No wonder why you say it doesn’t work. But don’t get me wrong, having a clear mind is not a small part of your success. Being able to think and act rationally is indeed the part that we can control. We can’t control our luck on the other hand. To be able to think and behave rationally, having a clear mind is the starting point. Having enough knowledge is another part. I love how Charlie Munger, a successful investor, has put it, “Being rational is a moral duty.” I think it’s highest level of wisdom summed up in just a few words.
Meditation is Supposed to Work Right Away
I should have made it very clear that the purpose of meditation is to clear your mind. So back to today’s question of “how long does it take for meditation to work”, I would answer that it should work the very first time you meditate. It just probably can’t make your mind super clear, instead just make your mind a little more clear. It can get your mind more and more clear once you can get more used to meditating. I would say that I still get reach 100% clarity but it may be close to 90% clear after my daily morning meditation session. To me, that 90% clear mind really helps me a lot in making better decisions. But as I touched on earlier, making good decisions require both a clear mind and enough knowledge. You should probably be able to see the meditation is a very important tool but it isn’t something that magical.
Meditation Works Even Better When It Becomes a Habit
The time when you can consistently feel that meditation can make your mind very clear (I use 90% clear to describe the “very clear” state in the previous paragraph) is when meditation has become your daily habit. In my case, it takes me around forcing myself to meditate every morning for three straight months to make it really my habit. By the time it becomes my habit, it no longer takes me extra effort to force myself sit down and meditate. Instead, things have become a little more effortless. I also found myself easier to focus.
Remember to Meditation the Way that Works for You
I think it is worth mentioning that meditation is not some exact science or math. There is no textbook that tells you what your optimal way of meditation is. You should try different methods and positions and see what works for you. For some people, they may think that breath meditation works better, while I myself feel mantra meditation makes my mind clear more easily. Some people may think that sitting on the floor with legs crossed is more iconic and standard. I feel that sitting on a chair feels much more natural and wouldn’t apply as much pressure to my knees. There are some people that prefer to stand or lie on a mat to meditate. I am not joking at all. Do whatever that works for you. The only thing that you have to make sure you get right is that you feel your mind gets more clear after your meditation. When that’s true, meditation works.
In conclusion, meditation’s only purpose is to make your mind more clear. All other purposes or benefits can be viewed as sub-products of having a clear mind. Meditation is supposed to worked the very first time you try. It can already make your mind say 60% clear. As you meditate daily for a few months, meditation will become more natural and effortless. It can probably make your mind 90% clear. Meditation is not the only element for having a successful life but it plays a big enough role that make it matter.