Teachers of centering prayer recommend that you devote twenty minutes at a time, twice a day, to centering prayer.
Ken Wilber, in advocating meditation as a tool for the transformation of consciousness, advocates thirty minutes, twice a day.
Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to devote an hour to silence: once in the morning, and twice in the evening, twenty minutes per “sit.” What I noticed is that each time I probably took fifteen minutes just to flush out the mental chatter and the screeching of the monkey mind, thus allowing me to rest in that elusive place “below” my inner discourse, for a good five minutes or so until the bell rang signifying the end of the twenty minutes.
Another twenty minutes this morning, and indeed, much the same dynamics.
This isn’t really news, and not even news for me. I’ve experienced this before: twenty minutes of contemplative time equals the hope of a brief glimmer of the peace which surpasses understanding. But experiencing it four times in a row over little more than a day’s time just brought it home to me all over again.
So let me encourage you: if you are struggling to establish a daily discipline of centering or contemplative prayer, give yourself the gift of time. Allow for twenty minutes without interruption when you sit down to pray. Breathe into it. Don’t struggle with it, or with yourself. When the monkey mind chatters away, just keep breathing. And persevere for the twenty minutes, all of it a gift to God — the gift of your fully unadorned self.
And then do it again, and again, and again. Ideally twice a day, but once a day is better than nothing. Just keep breathing.