Problem #1 when it comes to meditation? Laziness. Luckily, there are 4 antidotes

March 5, 2012   |   6 Comments  |   FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

We all have difficulty with committing to the meditation cushion. I totally understand. When you sit on the cushion, you’re agreeing to sit down with the unknown. Sometimes this feels terrifying, sometimes exciting but, mostly, it’s just kind of ordinary–and it’s this ordinariness that might make us think “nothing is happening” or “I must be doing this wrong.” And then we give up. However, it’s actually considered a good sign when the practice becomes a bit boring–you’ve stopped trying to entertain yourself. So hang in there with all the ups and downs and lack of ups and downs.

Buddhists have written a lot on overcoming the obstacles to a meditation practice, because people have been encountering these obstacles for like 2500 years.

Laziness (of which there are 3 kinds: regular; becoming disheartened; being too busy)

Forgetting the Instructions (spacing them out, basically)

Laxity/Elation (being too sleepy and dull or getting carried away by some exciting experience while meditating—both are distractions).

If my experience is any illustration, the biggest obstacle by far is laziness. Luckily, the dharma also describes antidotes. For laziness, there are four.

1. Trust. This is the kind of trust that arises from experience–you recall that when you do “the right thing” you actually do feel better. So this activity (in our case, meditation) really works and when you remember that, it can help.

2. Aspiration. What arises when you remember what brought you to meditation in the first place.You can trust that insight.

3. Effort.The truth is, there are no tricks. At a certain point, you just have to get yourself to sit on the cushion and begin. At first, this is difficult. But as the practice takes root in your life, stamina increases and the ability to put in effort is natural.

4. Pliancy. If you practice for a few minutes every day, this is way better than a lot of minutes on a few days. Routine is the key. Continuity is more important than duration. Then at some point your practice reaches the kind of critical mass that brushing your teeth has. It’s just something you do and it feels icky if you don’t do it.

Last, remember that If you take your seat, rouse the intention and aspiration to meditate, the practice will do the rest. All you have to do is walk through the gate.

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  • Posted by:  David

    Hi Susan!

    In response to your question about aspirations and obstacles:

    In the beginning I had to literally throw the cushion on the floor, point at it, and order myself to sit. Lately it’s been better. But as I grow more consistent I noticed a problem that I missed before. I think I’m a closet meditator… or something.

    I have a wife and two small kids who tear around the house nonstop. I try to sneak upstairs and lock the door but the kids come looking for me. But that’s not it. When I hear my wife coming up the stairs, I jump off the cushion and pretend to be reading a book or straightening up the room. Which is so funny and ridiculous, I can’t even believe I am saying it out loud! I mean it’s like something out of a sitcom!

    This practice of meditation has helped me so much. Even my wife knows it. Why am I hiding it? My new obstacle is listening for foosteps instead of focusing on my breath. Aye aye aye… haha!
    Any insight?

  • Posted by:  Anita

    I can relate to David’s post about listening to footsteps. Fortunately my husband now understands how important meditation is for me and gives me the time to sit.
    I have a very high paced and stressful job which was giving me daily panic attacks for over 5 years. Then a little over a year ago, I had an accident which resulted in a closed head injury.

    Meditation gives me a reality check. I’ve slowly learned that regular practice gives me a much better perspective. It’s teaching me to watch the storm of life whirl around me but not affect me. Am I really good at it yet, NOOOO but meditation is making a huge difference. I also find that it helps with some of the residual effects from my head injury. Since my accident, I have moments when my thoughts would become muddled and confused and gaps in my short term memory. Meditation helps me calm down and focus.

    Thanks Susan for your discussions and meditations! I am so glad I found my way to your web site.

    • Posted by:  David

      That’s cool, Anita. Meditation has been an invaluable tool for me too. So wish I learned sooner. And I’m also glad to know that I’m not the only one who is “not really good” at it. Sometimes I feel all over the place. But I’m so grateful for this experience in my life.

  • Posted by:  Daan

    David, I have a few suggestions and random thoughts for you. I recognised something in what you said: you seem to me like a person who feels responsible for everything all of the time, and who isn’t used to taking up time or space for themselves.
    Now, this could of course simply be a case of projection on my part ; ) But all the same, I would suggest thinking about the reasons for that uncomfortable feeling and what it might mean on a deeper level and see if you can learn from it.
    Second, I was wondering to what extent you have talked about this with your wife. You did mention that she knows that you benefit from practicing meditation, but perhaps you could talk about this particular aspect too. It might clear the air.
    Third and most obvious suggestion: of course it is a challenge to practice with your offspring racing around the house. (Have you tried finding a more tranquil moment of the day? Late evening?) You might be feeling guilty that for the ten minutes that you practice, you’re leaving the parental duties all to your wife. Perhaps while you have that talk with your wife, you could also talk about reserving a time in the day or week for her to completely relax, while you take care of the kids and the house. That way you feel less guilty and she gets some time to herself as well.
    Maybe you already do all this of course, in which case: I give up ; )

    • Posted by:  David

      Hi Daan, Not only did you hit the nail on the head, you crushed it! 🙂 I’m an air traffic controller and responsibility versus compression is a daily battle that trickles into my personal life. The rotating schedule makes it difficult to find a steady practice time. Susan suggested to practice before I sleep which has helped a ton.

      But yeah, I haven’t talked to my wife about it directly. I’ve talked around it a lot. I don’t know why cause it’s so simple. Also kind of silly of me.

      I keep uncovering layers of myself through this practice. It’s so contrary to every way I lived my life up to now. But I am drawn to keep moving forward. I have so much to learn. Thank you for the insight.

  • Posted by:  Daan

    Ha, well with a job like that, meditation is a fantastic choice!

    I hope you and the missus get comfortable talking about stuff like this. And there’s no reason to beat yourself up over it by calling your reaction silly: you are finding this difficult and you have a right to. You also have a right to investigate why, and to see if you can make a change when you feel ready for it.

    Invariably, these things seem scary beforehand and actually turn out way better than you imagined. And remember: we women tend to really appreciate it when our partners talk about what’s going on with them ; )

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