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Just to follow up from this question - is it possible for an individual to meditate too much? Is there a point when it becomes counterproductive and if so what would the signs be that someone should slacken off their meditation routine?

Just to be clear - I am talking about a meditation routine outside of a retreat setting. The question is about someone's daily meditation routine rather than during a retreat when the conditions and level of support one would receive would be very different.

5

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Practice like your hair is one fire"

However, one researcher was looking for people who had so-called "Dark Nights of the soul" experience, i.e. unpleasant experience with meditation. She found that

"She identified two susceptible demographics: a) men, 18 to 30 years old, who go to Asia and do 10 to 20 hrs of meditation/day, and b) middle-aged women w/an hr/day practice who go to “say, Spirit Rock Meditation Center ... for the last 10 to 20 years”.

ref: http://beyondmeds.com/2014/02/16/dark-night-of-the-soul/

In the case of a lay follower, I don't think we need to go outside of Buddhism to answer the question-- your job will determine the upper bound to how much you can meditate, which I suppose is the whole motivation behind renunciation, to allow more time to meditate. For a lay follower with a day job, fitting in 3 hours a day and maybe more on a weekend (16 maybe?) seems to be the most you can get away with without re-arranging your lifestyle and job to crank up the number of hours.

Anyhow, in my opinion quality trumps quantity, I wish I had a good objective metric for monitoring quality.

Also, in my own practice I've been working on doing more different sorts of meditation, since I already sit on my butt at the office all day staring at a screen (sometimes with concentration, sometimes scatter brained). So I've been trying to mix in prostrations, chants, walking meditation, etc.

  • "Dark Nights of the Soul" experiences are the Ten Stages of Insight. It is a sign of progress but one has to be ready for it, meaning practicing detached awareness. Please see Daniel Ingram's "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" for detailed info on this phenomenon. (There are a lot of public misconceptions about these meditation phenomena that drive away beginners.) – Ahmed Jan 3 '15 at 21:18
  • Beginner can be driven away by the thought of back pain and legs falling asleep while sitting. Seems just as likely that these are people with a pre-existing condition or disposition that could be triggered by a variety of stressful things, including "binge" meditation. – MatthewMartin Jan 4 '15 at 5:09
  • According to Master Nan, more often than not, when these physical phenomena are "triggered" they are "purifying" latent karma and DISEASES... diseases that could turn into something far far worse a few years down the road such as cancer or psychological disorders. – Ahmed Jan 4 '15 at 5:11
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You practice should be continuous. Therefore there is only the risk of practising too little. But there is the risk of too much effort. This is generally chasing after results, exerting too much control like keeping you mind on the meditation object.

2

I will answer your second question first, signs of too much meditation are that you TRULY feel bored or really sleepy. In that case stop meditating. Like anything, meditation is a practice and practice doesn't make perfect. PERFECT practice makes perfect. So make sure you are curious enough about your own Self, self, and the Great Experiment of Buddhism. Otherwise you will end up wasting your time. You also have to draw a fine line between running off from meditation because you need to read more about it and running off because you're lazy or you just feel a little pain from your legs. If the latter, try harder. Challenge yourself sometimes!!

Too much meditation? If you look at the suttas, there are people who attained realization in seven days by practicing meditation day and night, inspired by the Buddha's words.

These are people that had the proper teachings and thus motivated practice. For someone who is a beginner and who doesn't understand the entire picture, it is not good to meditate too much because then the person will become repulsed and extremely outcome-oriented. For beginners, it is important to get used to meditation first... but just know that you won't get enlightened or attain mastery of your state of mind, body, heart (and even reality itself) without staying in meditation longer and longer periods of time.

On the other hand, there are some Buddhist professors who should be meditating all day! (Because they have enough knowledge to accomplish Enlightenment. They've been studying for decades and not even practicing but just arbitrating smaller irrelevant concepts.)

Please see the free book by Daniel Ingram's "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" chapter about meditation scheduling and when to do it and how long.

According to stackexchange guidelines I should regurgitate the info here but I decide not to because the book will always be available and is free. Read the chapter I mentioned and then read the whole book. Also I didn't regurgitate because my response should very fully gives you enough hints.

Also here is an excerpt from one the best books I have ever read about Buddhism: (the advice offers a different perspective from above... equally valid)

"The main rule is to be at ease and thoroughly relaxed in muscles, nerves, and brain. Noises and bright light may create tension, and darkness may cause sleepiness. It is better to meditate often for a shorter time than for a long time but infrequently. To make real progress, meditation should become a vital part of one’s daily life. Meditation masters recommended to their students: “Do it with an aspiration so strong that it will be the cause of fulfilling your provisional and final aims. Meditate in this way during four sessions: predawn, morning, afternoon, and at nightfall. Furthermore, if at first you meditate for a long time, you will be readily susceptible to laxity and excitement. If this becomes your habit, it will then be difficult to correct your awareness. Meditate in many short sessions. If you end your session while still wanting to meditate, you will be eager to reenter each future session." --Mind Experiment pg. 201

0

If meditation is interfering with your life and relationships, then you are meditating too much. Follow the Middle Way. If you do not have a life, or relationships, then why are you bothering?

My meditation teacher (authorized by my guru to teach it) said that it is how you are in life that shows your progress, not how you personally feel, and that other people will probably see changes in you before you see them.

  • I made Someone On The Internet unhappy, again... sigh. – user2341 Jun 26 '15 at 23:29

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