Staying Motivated

Jake, modified 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 11:24 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 11:24 AM

Staying Motivated

Posts: 135 Join Date: 4/18/13 Recent Posts
I've been practicing on and off for a couple years. There have been bouts of serious practice and bouts of no practice at all. The main struggle for me has been keeping a consistent practice but also maintaining a motivation and desire to meditate. At times I feel so depressed and unmotivated to do anything let alone sit on the cushion. I am aware of the tremendous benefits of meditation yet I am distracted by other petty things which offer no long term benefit.

I feel like I have been unable to get over the hump and really make serious gains in terms of meditation. I am able to lift three times a week with no problem but meditation is so damn hard at times.  
Jim Smith, modified 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 12:24 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 12:09 PM

RE: Staying Motivated

Posts: 1679 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
At times I feel so depressed and unmotivated to do anything let alone sit on the cushion. ... I am able to lift three times a week with no problem but meditation is so damn hard at times.  

There might be a connection between lifting and depression.

exercise has a point of diminishing returns; increasing your exercise levels too quickly without enough rest can negatively affect your emotional state and cause depressive symptoms.

Overtraining Syndrome and Depression

Overtraining syndrome is the state you reach if you exercise to this point of diminishing return. You are unable to improve your performance despite increases in training intensity or duration and you may develop overuse injuries, changes in your blood chemistry, decreased immune function, increased resting blood pressure and heart rate, and negative changes in your mood. Overtraining occurs if you engage in prolonged, intense exercise without allowing enough time for rest and recovery. Depression and chronic fatigue are the two most common symptoms recognized in overtraining syndrome.

I know for myself, if I get too much exercise it has a negative impact on my meditation practice.

I also try to meditate when my mind is in proper condition for it. For example, if I'm stressed out I try to get more relaxed first because it can be so hard to concentrate if you are stressed out. When I would go on retreats we wouldn't just sit down and meditate. We'd do bowing, then chanting, then sit. Each step progressively conditions the mind for meditation. I think it's unrealistic for lay people to think they can just sit down and start meditating when the monks who are the experts don't do it that way. Maybe something like  tai-chi or yoga would help to prepare your mind before you do sitting meditation.

Have you tried meditating after a workout as part of the routine? Sometimes its easier to develop a habit if you attach it to an already existing one.

And joining a meditation group is very helpful in maintaning a practice. I used to go the the local Zen center three deays a week for meditation sessions. Meeting with other people who are interested in meditation was also very helpful.
Paul Kinkade, modified 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 12:38 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 12:38 PM

RE: Staying Motivated

Posts: 19 Join Date: 8/4/14 Recent Posts
I have the opposite experience. Exercise only improves my mental health and my willingness to practice. 

Jake, what has helped me is removing distractions from my life. I don't have a computer in my room, I don't hang out with people who don't serve my growth, I get lots of outdoor time, eat & sleep well, take care of myself, etc. 
Also see the chapter on Stage One is Culadasa's book The Mind Illuminated. It's about establishing a practice. The emphasis is on appreciating the pleasant aspects of practice rather than trying to force yourself to sit. 

Maybe this could help you or somebody reading. 
Small Steps, modified 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 1:28 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 1:26 PM

RE: Staying Motivated

Posts: 246 Join Date: 2/12/14 Recent Posts
A few thoughts:
- See if you can understand why you started practicing and why you practice now. What truly motivates you? Caveat: the reasons may have shifted, or may be shifting.
- If you find it too hard to sit for any reason, do standing or walking meditation for a month and see how that goes. Since you already have a physical work out, you might find walking meditation more easeful. Perhaps do 10 or 15 minutes of walking after your work out.
- You say you are aware of the tremendous benefits of meditation. An intellectual knowing is not sufficient. Let go of the idea that it's somehow "good for you," or "something one should do." When you don't have the added burden of carrying around the guilt of "I didn't meditate today," you might find that you open up the space for yourself to do and enjoy the practice.
- If you have any friends who are interested in meditation, talk to them about checking in daily. Try this for a week or month. I think the latter is preferable. IIRC, the research suggests something like 20 days to build a new habit.

Good luck! If nothing else, the DhO is supporting your practice! emoticon

small edit for syntax
Noah, modified 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 2:42 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 2/10/16 2:34 PM

RE: Staying Motivated

Posts: 1467 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Hey Jake, 3 thoughts:

accountability (i.e. work with a teacher, local sitting group, online practice log, etc.)

motivation (converting negative experiences into fuel to keep pushing)

adding in informal meditation (i.e. continuity of mindfulness outside of sitting practice)

edit: Also, try taking a week to gladden the mind every time you have a negative emotion or thought, all day long... it basically just involves 'breathing in joy' and 'breathing out with relaxation,' along with the faith that you can retrain the brain accordingly
Darrell, modified 8 Years ago at 3/2/16 11:41 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/2/16 11:41 PM

RE: Staying Motivated

Posts: 143 Join Date: 2/22/15 Recent Posts
For me, it's about more than just meditation, that's just a part of it. As someone else said, it also as much about what your practice is off the cushion. For example, for me that is about present moment attention, and watching what I'm doing, especially my thouughts, emotions and intentions.

I agree with what Noah said about having a group, too.

But here's the biggie - if I'm having difficulty with motivation, I recall all of the suffering I've experienced in recent years. Have I had enough? Would I like to continue going down that path, without any respite or reprieve? Am I willing to continue to create suffering for myself, without end for the rest of my days?

Although the results of my practice appear to be minimal, as far as I can tell, in a little over a years time, I have reduced even if only a bit, the suffering I create for myself, and others too. Which is just as important, if not more so. And so I can have faith in the idea that if I've seen these results in this short span of time, I can expect more in the future if I stay on the path and continue to practice.

As to depression - adding metta to my practice helped immensely. I've quit taking the SSRI I was on, I feel better, and have a better outlook and am generally significantly less negative and pessimistic than I've been in years.
Robert, modified 8 Years ago at 3/3/16 12:37 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/3/16 12:21 AM

RE: Staying Motivated

Posts: 100 Join Date: 5/8/15 Recent Posts
How is lifting not meditation too? Just a slightly different form than sitting.

Forget about making meditation a chore to be taken on at specific times in a specific way. Life is essentially meditation. Just to be reminded now and then to turn the attention to the feeling of being, of existence, which is always now and not something in the future to be done, is enough in my opinion. This constant directing the attention to "presence" and not going with the thoughts but being aware of them as thought activity (and not repressing them either unless it's appropriate given a specific situation, just noticing the tendencies and the ways of controlling and repressing certain thoughts in certain situations) in everyday life will start to morph from "you being present and meditating" into just indescribable silence and deep moments of beauty eventually. It is eventually noticed that everything is happening in silence, and as silence without you doing anything about it. The you-character being a part of the silence too and not actually disturbing it nor having any effect on it because you're nothing apart from it.