When I was in acupuncture school, we would often ask our lecturer, “How long should we leave the needles in?” The response was always the same: “At least 20 minutes.” Naturally, we would then ask, “Why 20 minutes?”
And so, it was soon revealed that in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as Indian yoga, the Qi or Pra
na, as it is known in yoga – travels quite slowly through the system, taking a full ten minutes to do a complete round of the body and mind. This means that the Qi in your thumb will return to the same position in your thumb in ten minutes time. Therefore, when we treat people with acupuncture, twenty minutes gives us a total of two complete Qi cycles, enough to have stimulated and adjusted the system. In special cases where the person being treated is considered to have a massive accumulation of Qi in a particular part of the body, it is more suitable to leave the acupuncture needles in for longer than 20 minutes but this is a topic worth exploring further at another time.
This ten-minute rule can be applied to all other aspects of our lives. For example, when trying something new, we must commit to the practice for at least ten minutes without any distractions and interruptions (phone calls, checking messages, etc.) to allow our Qi at least one full rotation through our system. This allows for full body and mind INTEGRATION to take place. The more Qi cycles that are completed when engaged in a task without distraction, the more it’ll stick and integrate. If we only concentrate for, say, five minutes, only half of our body and energy actually experienced it, not enough for it to be fully absorbed into our system. This is why I always suggest to people who are starting out in meditation to sit and practice for at least ten minutes.
The rule can also be applied to any particular task, such as studying, writing or doing your tax return. Allow yourself at least 10 – 20 minutes to get into the flow of things and this will also increase your chances of completing the task. Neuroscience is starting to support these findings, reporting that it takes about 20 minutes of focus on one task to start to get into the flow of a particular activity or practice.
So the next time you attempt to undertake a new practice or sit down to a task that doesn’t inspire you, give yourself ten to twenty minutes (1-2 full Qi cycles) to get into the rhythm. You will probably surprise yourself, and you will likely start experiencing more breakthroughs in your work and life.