10,000 hours towards enlightenment

Some few weeks ago I was contemplating how I could bring my meditation practice to a new level. During one of my mindfulness training sessions I came to talk about the first few months after I did my first long retreat in Thailand. During those 42 days I had been meditating around 10 hours a day while at the same time not giving myself any input. So no reading, no listening to music, and a few weeks of no speaking at all.

When I came home and picked up my normal life afterwards I felt so great and so different from ever before. I slept only 5 hours a night and never felt tired. I had no physical discomforts like headaches or stomachaches that I used to have a lot. I often caught my mind being completely calm, without any thoughts or worries. And when I was talking to someone I realized all my attention was with and in that conversation, I had no side thoughts or distractions, I was fully concentrated on what was going on in that moment. I remember that I often thought: Wauw! This is how I was meant to be and feel, this is how I was supposed to be, this is me being at my best.

Then slowly, over the months, the chatter in my mind started to return, and with it the tiredness, the need for more and more sleep, the headaches and stomachaches and the drifting away from the present moment…

What happened is that I lost my focus on meditation. While the first few months my practice was very present and alive with at  least 45 minutes of morning meditation and another 30 minutes somewhere during the day, over the months I started to meditate less and less, I skipped the 30 minutes during the day and also meditated less and less in the morning. I always kept it going, but would usually do only 20 to 30 minutes a day. Enough to keep me sane and stable, but not enough to be the best version of myself.  

So when I was sharing all this with the mindfulness group I realized I very much wanted to become that person again. And I realized  that fortunately, I had all the tools to do so. And maybe even go beyond where I had been before.

I had to think about this “10.000 hour rule” that Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions in his book Outliers. He claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

And I saw a challenge there! I calculated how many hours I have roughly spend on meditation between 1999 and now, and came to at least 1500 hours, probably a few hundred more but I wanted to be on the safe side. Then I wondered what would be a challenging but realistic amount of hours I could meditate a day in my busy life as mother of three children, wife, entrepreneur and friend. I came to two hours, one from 5-6 in the morning and one from 22.00 – 23.00 before I would go to sleep. Having 8500 hours left to reach the magic 10,000  would mean that on that speed it is going to take me 11 years and 7 months to reach enlightenment!

So I decided this would definitely bring my meditation practice to a new level and would also be a good experiment to see how much meditation time I need a day to see major changes in my energy and concentration level as well as my feeling of wellbeing on a physical, mental and emotional level.

I’m 36 days on the way now, have been very dedicated, committed and successful with my one hour in the morning, just as dedicated and committed to my one hour in the evening but slightly less successful because I usually fall asleep after 30 minutes. A very sound and peaceful sleep of which I awake without alarm clock around 5 am. I feel much more rested, energetic and pro-active than when I slept 8 hours or more, which, I guess is a good first step on the long road towards enlightenment on my 51th birthday! To be continued….