There are some people who will light a stick of incense in front of them before they sit down to meditate and then make a dramatic determination that they won’t get up until the incense has completely burned down. Then they start meditating, but after only five minutes they feel as if a whole hour has passed and when they open their eyes to look at the incense stick get a surprise when they find that it’s still really long. They close their eyes and restart the meditation and in no time at all are checking the incense again. So, of course, their meditation doesn’t get anywhere. Don’t be like that, it’s like being a monkey. You end up not doing any work at all. You spend the whole period of the meditation thinking about that stick of incense, wondering whether it’s finished or not. Training the mind can easily get to be like this, so don’t attach too much importance to the time.
– Ajahn Chah
This calls to me, instead substitute incense with “clock”. In lay life I meditated outside with an alarm, but here at Bhavana with the meditation hall and its 3 clocks, unless I am into good concentration I have to be mindful not to check the clocks, even accidentally.
Usually it goes like this: “hmm that section of meditation was pretty deep, I wonder(hope!) if 30 minutes passed by and it felt like 10!”. Then I check the clock and 10 minutes passed, which builds more aversion and agitation, leading me further from tranquility.
I agree with Ajahn Chah’s assessment here, and every time I sit down I devote some time to reminding my mind of what I am doing and why, that there is no time limit( or at least I don’t have to worry because of an alarm) and to let go of all the responsibilities and burdens, thoughts about family, friends, work etc, like atlas putting down the world, at least until the meditation is over, this usually helps greatly in coming to calm, which leads to concentration, which provides the stable basis for insight.