Beginners often ask me what’s the best time to meditate. My answer is always the same: “It depends”. Your best time might be 9pm, whilst mine is 7.30am, and another person’s best time is 4am. So if there is no single best time to meditate, how do you decide when to do your practice?
The first thing to understand is that it’s a good idea to pick a time and stick with it. When you practice at the same time each day, you’ll start to form a habit, so that after a while you’ll find yourself just doing your meditation without needing to think about it too much.
So what time should you choose? There are three main options: In the morning, at night, and sometime during the day.
Meditating In the Morning
Traditionally meditators would wake before sunrise, and do their first meditation of the day facing East. This never made much sense to me until one winter’s day I realised that by facing East, the rising sun lands on your body and bathes you in warm light as you meditate. All quite sensible on a chilly morning! Give it a try sometime, it’s a deliciously sensuous way to meditate! But you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to meditate in the morning.
First thing is a fabulous time to meditate
First thing in the morning (at what ever time you wake up) is a really great time to meditate because:
- Your mind is often more fresh and uncluttered without the tasks, worries and decisions that often fill our minds at other times of the day.
- You get the day off to a good start, and set yourself up for a better day.
- You get it done first thing, so you’re less likely to forget about it or put it off.
Just after waking was my favourite time to meditate before I had kids. I would pad into the living room, grab a blanket (on a chilly morning) and sit for 20 minutes every day. I’d either sit on the floor with my back propped up against the sofa, or outside on a chair on the balcony. At this time of day, my mind hadn’t yet gone into planning mode, and it was usually easier for me to focus. I particularly loved the outdoor meditations when I’d feel the wind on my skin and the sun on my face, and hear the rustle of the Eucalyptus leaves and the twittering of the birds.
What to do when morning doesn’t work for you
If you have young children or demanding pets, mornings may be more difficult for you. Or perhaps you are busy juggling school lunches, breakfast, and getting ready for work? Here are some possible solutions:
- Get up earlier so you can do your meditation before the household wakes.
- Train your kids and dogs to wait until you have finished your practice.
- Try another time of day.
If you’re too sleepy and can’t concentrate, then definitely try a different time of day. You’ll find meditation easier if you’re more awake.
Meditating At Night
Evening is another traditional time for meditation, and it’s another popular choice for modern meditators like you and me.
For better sleep, wind down by meditating before bed
Meditation in the evening can be especially helpful if you have trouble sleeping, as the relaxation effect makes it easier to fall asleep. Think about it: whenever it takes you a long time to fall asleep (or you wake up at night and can’t get back to sleep), it’s usually because your mind is very active. You can’t get to sleep because your mind won’t switch off. If you use meditation to quieten your mind and relax your body, falling asleep gets so much easier.
Can’t stay awake to meditate at night?
After I had kids, I really tried to make evening meditation work for me. But it never really worked out well. My main problem was tiredness. As soon as I closed my eyes to meditate, I would start drifting off to sleep. I’d realise my mind had drifted off into a dream-like state where I was still awake but dreaming. Pleasant enough, but lacking any kind of focus, and not really meditation. So evening meditation didn’t work for me, but it does work for many others.
If you are falling asleep instead of meditating, here are some things you can try:
- Check that your posture is relaxed but upright. Slouching or reclining make you more likely to fall asleep.
- Open your eyes. Closing your eyes is a trigger for sleep, so keeping them open may help you to stop drifting off. You can either keep your eyes open for the whole practice session, or just open them for a minute or two if you start to feel sleepy. When you have your eyes open, settle them on a single point (rather than darting around) to help you maintain your focus.
- Meditate standing up. Stand with your feet hip width apart, and your spine upright but relaxed. Make sure your head is not tilted forward or angled back. Let your arms hang by your sides. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Feel the contact of your feet on the floor and the position of your body in space. If your mind wanders, return to your breathing.
- Don’t meditate in your bedroom. Try a chair in the lounge room instead. You may find it easier, unless you normally sleep in the lounge!
- Try a different time of day. Mornings may be a better fit for you.
Meditating During the Day
The final option is to meditate sometime during the day, but it can be tricker to form a habit because we often have more varied routines during the day.
Here are some times that might work depending on your routine:
- On the bus travelling to or from work
- In your lunch break (try a quiet spot like a park)
- After lunch in your office or home
- After school drop-off
What’s the Best Time For You?
You can meditate at any time of day (or night) but some times will suit you better than others, so experiment a bit to find the best time for you. You’re looking for a time when you’re awake, when you can sit quietly without interruptions for at least 5 minutes, and a time that you can commit to regularly.
If you’re still not sure what time would work for you, I recommend starting with the morning. It has so many advantages that it’s worth trying first, but if it doesn’t work out, try another time of day and see how that works for you.
Of course you can also choose to do two short practices every day rather than one longer one. The natural times to do these would be morning and evening, or morning and after lunch.
So, what do you think? Leave a comment and let me know what time of day you’re going to meditate and why that time appeals.