Shards of Consciousness

Ending Your Meditation

This must be meditation week. I've seen two posts about it (My Meditative Journey So Far (Learning Meditation) and 4 Powerful Reasons to Meditate and How to Get Started ). One thing that has come up is using an alarm clock to signal the end of the meditation period. Some people seem to do so, others don't. Should we use an alarm to signal the end of our meditation period?

Short Answer - No.

Medium Answer - It depends on how accomplished a meditator you are.

Long Answer - When you're learning to meditate, people often recommend meditating for a certain period of time. It may be 10 minutes. It may be 20. It may be 60. These are just guidelines. They can be useful, especially if you're as anal or OCD as I am. You want specific guidelines. You want to know you're doing it right. Remember, these are just guidelines. Doing it right doesn't depend on how long you meditate.

One of the purposes of meditation is to help us learn to focus on what is happening here and now. If you set an alarm to signal the end of your meditation, you'll set up an expectation that you will stop at a specific point in time. This pulls your focus from now, to the future. The internal division it sets up makes it harder to meditate. Think about when you were in school. You knew what time the bell would ring to signal the end of class. As the time approached for it to go off, how often did you more and more frequently distract yourself from what you were doing to check the time? If you were anything like me, you did it pretty frequently.

Rather than set an alarm, meditate at a time of day when your time isn't so tight you have to worry about the minutes. Especially when you are new at meditation, meditating too long will not be a issue. Feeling that a long time has passed when only minutes have gone by is the much more likely occurrence. If you do feel your time is up, your attention has already been drawn from your object of meditation, so you may as well look at a clock, then go back to your meditation the same as you would with any other distraction.

I wonder if my time's up? (glance at clock) Not yet. Back to my breath.

On the other hand, once you are an experienced meditator, you may find yourself so deeply in the state that you can go for hours. In that case, time may be an issue and setting an alarm can be helpful. By this point in your learning, you are able to set the alarm, then forget about it as you focus on your object of meditation. It isn't until the alarm goes off that it may actually impinge on your awareness. The act of setting it doesn't divide your awareness the way it does when meditation is new to you, but my experience is that it still has some divisive influence.

As you become even more experienced, if you're using a concentrative meditation, there's a good chance you will never hear the alarm, but by this time your innate time sense will cause you to start returning to normal consciousness in order to carry on the other activities of your day.

When I first started meditating, I often set an alarm to signal the end. I gave it because it causes more difficulties than it solves.

7 Responses to Ending Your Meditation

  • When I go into a meditative session I flow with it until I feel done or get interrupted by the kids. I don't think using an alarm clock would work as I would be too conscious of it.

    Wishing you a great weekend.

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  • That's my basic point, Danielle.

    You have a great weekend. I'm going to be enjoying Evan Almighty.

  • If you set an alarm to signal the end of your meditation, you’ll set up an expectation that you will stop at a specific point in time.

    That's exactly what I've been doing. I guess I'll try without the alarm and see how that goes :)

    Thanks for the post.

    #1281 | Comment by mahud on July 21, 2007 12:14am
  • It's worth a try, mahud. I think you'll find your practice progresses faster without the added distraction of waiting for the alarm. Let me know what your experience is.

  • Great points, Rick -I personally use an mp3 of a meditation bell to signal the start and end of my meditations. It's kind of funny, actually - audio files that are 99% silence. :) When my brain starts spinning with "When the heck is that bell gonna ring!", I try to use that as a part of the meditation itself, and start observing the way my mind worries about having to sit for another 3 minutes. I tried the looking at the clock thing, but it just didn't seem to fit my personal practice.

  • Hi Lyman,

    Don't you sleep?

    I've heard of recordings like that. It puts the sound of silence in a whole new light. :-) Don't think it will make it to the top 40, though.

    One of the reasons I like concentrative meditation is that it gives you a defined focus. You know if you're entertaining thoughts about anything else you're not where you want to be. Other forms of meditation seek to train the witness directly by observing the contents of your mind without being attached to any of them. For me, this is extremely difficult. I try it, then the next thing you know I've caught a train and the witness is left sitting back at the station. This is what would happen to me if I tried to watch my mind worry about any particular thing.

  • Hey, who needs sleep when I can just meditate all the time! :)

    I've been on that train many times, and it can become a problem. The breath as an anchor is still key, though... when the thoughts just get completely whacked and out of control, one of the best suggestions is to just get, as you said, "Back to my breath."

    Good stuff, Rick... thanks.

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