Meditation Analysis 2017

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This is an analysis of my meditation practice during 2017. While this does include my Quaker practice, most of it involves my (Soto) Zen practice. This gets a little tricky, because Zen has no goal. So data about my meditation needs to be observational. It needs to be just an attempt to understand what my practice is. It should not be used as a metric to determine if my practice is 'good' or 'bad.'

Methodology

I kept a spreadsheet of every meditation I did in 2017. It included the date, the length of the meditation in minutes, the posture of the meditation (how was I sitting or what was I doing), and the type of meditation (what sort of mental activity I was engaged in). The type of meditation was not used in this analysis, and the postures were put into one of three categories:

  • Upright: Not moving, with a well-supported, vertical spine. This is generally seated meditation on a zabuton and zafu, in half-lotus or virasana/seiza. The lack of a consistent distinction between virasana and seize is one of the main reasons for using posture categories. Note that some seiza did not involve a cushion. Upright also includes standing meditation, but it does not include meditation in a chair. I do not feel that a chair adequately supports a vertical spine.
  • Static: This is any other non-moving posture. It mainly includes chair meditation and meditation laying down.
  • Active: This is any moving meditation. It includes everything from in-zendo kinhin to grocery shopping.

Days of Meditation

I managed to do some form of meditation 337 days during 2017. I did upright meditation on 197 days, other static meditation on 155 days, and active meditation on 221 days. Consecutive days of meditation are shown below.

Longest Streaks by Posture, 2017
Posture Doing Not Doing
Upright 72 34
Static 15 19
Active 26 8
Any 164 19

I thought I was doing more than this. I knew there was a gap in my upright meditation. I stopped doing half-lotus due to pain in my right knee previous to 2017. During 2017 I found that doing seiza posture with a meditation bench was exacerbating the tendonitis in my left knee. So I had a period where I wasn't doing any traditional sitting meditation, mostly laying meditation with some standing.

Minutes of Meditation

I meditated a total of 21,239 minutes in 2017. That's 14 days, 17 hours, and 59 minutes. This kind of surprises me, especially the idea of me doing an average of 58 minutes per day (see the table below). I guess I'm a binge meditator.

Minutes of Meditation per Session, 2017
Posture Total Mean StdDev Median PerDay
active 9540 33.8 19.0 31 26.1
static 5691 31.8 11.5 30 15.6
upright 6008 22.1 8.8 25 16.5
all 21239 29.0 15.1 30 58.2

Meditation times 2017.png

The above graph shows how the different postured came and went over the year. You can see that I had a pretty steady upright meditation practice through June, when the pain in my knee really started getting to me. The static meditation that took it's place doesn't look as steady up to my retirement, shown by the vertical dotted line. You can see a spike in the meditation practice after my retirement, and meditating more was one of the things I wanted to do while retired. But it drops off within a month, especially the active meditation. This may be because I used to do a lot of meditation on my motorcycle to and from work, but not needing to commute to work dropped my motorcycle usage drastically. Then you see the active meditation come back September, when I started doing yoga and meditating during yoga class. The overall spikes in November and December were probably a combination of the yoga meditation and all day meditations I did on the second week of each of those months. The final thing I take away from this is that I didn't meditate at all the first two weeks of the year. Note that this is not taken into account in the streak analysis done above, so the active not doing streak should be at least 14 days.

Moving Forward

I have already made more of a commitment to my meditation practice in 2018. I originally just wanted to be sure I at least meditated every day. While I have done that, both active and upright, it is sometimes only for five minutes a day. Since then I have found a Soto Zen teacher in the area, and I am meditating weekly at her All Beings Sangha. This has prompted me to do at least 25 minutes of upright meditation a day. She also has some all day meditations I will be doing, and maybe some retreats. I have also reconnected with Jack Blackfelt, who coincidentally is doing meditation at the place I started doing yoga at. I'm even thinking of going back to the One Heart Sangha in Silver Spring, since two of the people I've met at All Beings go there as well.