Beginners often assume that timing how long they are meditating for will be very distracting. They sometimes wonder if they should use an alarm clock, or some other mechanical method. Most meditators just have a clock or watch sitting in front of them. They’ll open their eyes from time to time and see how long they’ve been sitting.
It really isn’t a great distraction.
Just make sure to place your clock or watch somewhere that you can see it without having to change the angle of your head, or move your eyes.
I would avoid using something like an over timer: something I saw recommended in a book on meditation but which would be rather jarring. You want something that produces a noise that’s pleasant.
There are many specialist meditation timing devices. Some of them can be very attractive, which makes it pleasant to have them in the place you meditate. I’ve provided links to these in the past, but what happens is that they go out of production after a while, and I end up with broken links. But if you search online you’ll find them.
A traditional way to time meditations is to use a stick of incense. When the incense is burned up you know it’s time to stop meditating. Of course you have to “calibrate” your incense because different kinds burn at different rates. You can choose incense that’s of the appropriate length or you can break bits off to customize the length of time you’ll be meditating. As with using a watch, you simply open your eyes from time to time to get an idea of how long remains for your meditation.
There are computer programs that act as meditation timers. Again, search online, because they sometimes get discontinued.
When I first wrote this article smartphones didn’t even exist. Now of course most people carry in their pocket a device that can function as a timer in its own right. Just choose a pleasant-sounding alarm for your timer, and you’re set. But there are also tons of meditation timer apps. One of the most popular is Insight Timer, which I’m happy to link to because it’s been around for a long time, and I assume it’s here to stay. It also has a ton of guided meditations, including quite a few from myself.