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How do you maintain meditation self-discipline when life is good?

I am sure this is an issue that plagues us all - maintaining a disciplined meditation practice.
However, I am finding that I have sort of reached a plateau in my practice. You know how you exercise to lose weight and you go through a period when you don't lose (or gain for that matter) weight at all? Everything seems to be in limbo.
That's kind of where I am with my practice - it seems I am existing in a state of stagnation with my meditation practice.
I understand that I am placing expectations - though I try not to.

I know it's not always about achieving insights and such, but I don't feel like I am going anywhere with my practice. (I know, more expectations)
So I start getting undisciplined - and practice meditation now and then because I know I'm supposed to be doing it but then I keep asking myself why. I feel guilty when I don't, kind of beat myself up over it. Then when I finally sit, I wonder what the hell was the big deal but also I am not feeling what I used to when I meditated.
I try to change up my practice (Vipassana, samatha, etc) to get different results (I know, more expectations!).
My life is actually pretty good so am I just becoming complacent or lazy with meditation?

I am wondering how many of you have gone through this and what you did about it. What am I supposed to learn from this? Is this just a normal phase?
I am sure there isn't an easy stock answer for this, but I am interested in hearing your similar experiences.


  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    It is hard.

    It's almost like we need "suffering" in our lives (both minor and major) to remind us why we need to keep going to get out of samsara!

    No really answers from me I'm afraid. Living and working with other human beings keeps me motivated and on this path!


  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Actually, can I ask you a question @Daiva?

    When is life good?

    I'm not trying to be a smart a**e or anything but I am curious as to what you define as life being good.

  • yagryagr Veteran

    If meditation is (the entirety of) your practice, I can see how it can be hard. That is not to diminish a meditation practice - it is rare that a person develops one in the first place. For instance, for me, practicing the eightfold path in addition to meditation keeps it interesting for unexpected reasons.

    Let's say that I am really focusing on right speech at the moment. I have found that I will make the greatest strides in practicing right speech when my meditation practice seems to stagnate. Both stagnate? Add right action.

  • Try to find the fun in meditation. Maybe do some conditioning, everytime you meditate for 5 days in a row you can have a piece of your favorite cake, for instance.

    Life was pretty good for me as well and I was not meditating much. Then one of my best friends fell in depression and our relationship broke up - we used to be together everyday for like 3 years. I suffered a lot and now I am getting back on track, if I was meditating I would probably have dealed with the whole situation better.

    So it is always good to keep in mind that anything can happen anytime. Keeping your mind clear and peaceful will make happy events bring lots of satisfaction and not-so-happy events bring lots of less suffering. Be kind to yourself, even if you meditate for like 5 minutes it is ok, just try to have some fun and not label it as a good or bad session :)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited October 2015

    @dantepw said:
    Try to find the fun in meditation. Maybe do some conditioning, everytime you meditate for 5 days in a row you can have a piece of your favorite cake, for instance.

    You iz hardcore. If having a piece of cake I hopefully gets to meditate for five days ... What about @SpinyNorman, no cake just icecream ...

    I rather like @how answer. Face the cake and the missing slice (or in my case the missing cake :3 )

    First there is cake. Then there is Lobster. Then there is no-cake. :silenced:

  • @Daiva said: I am sure there isn't an easy stock answer for this, but I am interested in hearing your similar experiences.

    I'm a bit the opposite, I find it difficult to keep meditation going when I'm going through a rough patch. I guess it comes down to looking at why we meditate, the answer may not be as obvious as we initially think.

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    Hi! I have been through this before and I even stopped completely.
    To be honest what drives me to meditate is that I've realised what I thought I was I am not.
    The minute I saw this, there is this burn to understand what/who I am. It has never left me even if meditation waned. :) this always eventually pulls me back in.

    I guess it's like how I exercise and how I suggest to my clients. Dont! exercise to lose weight.
    Exercise to exercise! This means you have no expectations on it. You enjoy it and it's not a chore then.

    I meditate to meditate, no expectations. I don't do it for anything in particular. Peace is a by product. Not the goal

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    By the way, when is the baby due, @Earthninja ...? I'm wondering how that new little bundle of life is going to colour your world once it's up and running, as it were.....

  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    "God is a concept by which we measure our pain."
    John Lennon

    It applies to Buddhism too. I think that when we have suffering, it is human nature to do two things: 1. seek relief, and 2. ask why. I think this is the genesis of much, throughout organized religion. And in this context, I'd label Buddhism as a "religion alternative" born of similar yearnings.

    So by this view, your question becomes "If I don't have suffering, why do I need relief from it?" If so, then the answer may be that Buddhism 's purpose in you is to lead you to new insights, or to share with others. Perhaps your life is asking you to explore other aspects or contemplations.

    Also, you might be enjoying this time of nonsuffering BECAUSE of your views, attitudes, meditation, etc. We all suffer to the amount that we permit the suffering; that is, "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." There may be things in your life that would cause suffering for others, but that don't bother you. There will come a time in your life when you'll experience loss, and find yourself back at the fundamental questions.

    I don't find meditation to require a guilt-driven regularity. There are seasons. Enjoy them.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    I think this is one of the reasons why Sangha is considered the 3rd Jewel and something to take refuge in. It can provide the motivation for discipline when you find your own lacking. It's a lot easier to practice with a group of other people than it is to do everything by yourself.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited October 2015

    I keep up meditation and other practices because I know full well that no matter how long life goes on being good, eventually it won't be. And I've seen first hand how well it doesn't work to rely on practice only when the poop hits the fan. My sister lives her life that way, and it just doesn't work. Her emotional state is in constant flux and chaos and when life gets the hardest, she turns to practice and then lets it go when things settle. It doesn't work for her the way it could.

    But also because while life isn't constantly in chaos, there is always something to deal with. There are always unsatisfactory things to cope with, and meditation helps me with all those things, too. Like this morning when I got 3 notices about my son's mid-term grades and his teachers expressing concerns he is not working to his best ability. Meditation gets rid of the surface irritation and worry and lets me work with him on a better level. It helps me deal with frustration in traffic, irritation from little life things. When I let meditation go, those things creep in and become much more of a factor. When I practice (which usually includes meditation but honestly, not always) I can observe the irritation arise, but then I can let it go. When I don't practice, they take over my life and the smallest irritation can lead me to a whole day gone bad. Life's too short for that.

    Life is my motivation. Sometimes, my practice goes in the toilet. But I had to recognize that I was still practicing in a sense. But when I go too long without it, those things start to come back and I know I have to sit. I don't like minor problems upsetting my whole life, so I meditate and it works.

    We have been taught to look at the positive and ignore the negative. But when you really look at it, life is full of dissatisfaction. Dukkha. It's everywhere. It's in cleaning up when the dog craps on the floor. It's in seeing your husband left dirty dishes on the stove after you just cleaned the kitchen for the night. It's in getting survey phone calls 5 times a day. It's in running out of coffee at a bad time. It's in not getting what you want, when you want it. It's everywhere. Meditation tames it. Ignoring it and pretending it's not there does not.

  • Thank you for your comments. I appreciate it.

    @Bunks I guess I define "life is good" as a state of not suffering. Life is not perfect, but my needs are being met: physically, emotionally, etc. Maybe I do need a little suffering?

    @yagr I do follow the 8-fold path, but that is a great suggestion to focus on an aspect. Perhaps I will be faced with more of my personal struggle/suffering in doing so. I really like this suggestion - thank you.

    @Earthninja Ah yes - meditate to just meditate. But I think I sort of start out that way and then my negative mind get's into the "what's the point" loop... So I guess I should just return to the breath...

    @seeker242 I see how Sangha can make me accountable, however, in the end, it is i who must sit on the cushion - it can't really be about pleasing or looking good in front of the sangha, which I think such accountability leads, at least for me. Discipline becomes such a personal matter - the kind of where I have to face myself and my own honesty. And I guess that is where my question of "what is the point" arises. Am I doing this for my "self?" But there is no "self." I think this is where I start getting myself into trouble.....

    @karasti I guess my dissatisfaction is with my meditation practice. I know I feel better when I do it. When I don't do it, I start to beat myself up over it. I live in Los Angeles, so I am sure no matter how much mediation I do, I will always feel anger and frustration with the traffic. Lol. I guess, as you described, a fluctuating practice is not such a bad thing - if I understood you correctly, the intention matters more. I like how you say "Life is my motivation." I get that but at the same time it almost doesn't seem enough. Just because I guess I think our motivations are supposed to transcend this life - I may not be on the correct course of thinking on this, it's just my interpretation. But I do understand what you are trying to convey to me. Thank you.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited October 2015

    @Daiva said:
    seeker242 I see how Sangha can make me accountable, however, in the end, it is i who must sit on the cushion -

    Agreed, it is you! But, I have found over the 20+ years of doing this practice and personally experiencing periods of high, low and even no motivation, sometimes for years. I've found that when you sit with a motivated group, it's easier to find the motivation because motivation is contagious. If a person with little motivation, sits with a group that has high motivation, that group energy provides an automatic boost to that one individual with little motivation. Especially so when that one individual is looking to increase their motivation.

    This is why monks at Buddhist temples often do group practices. This is why group retreats are so energizing to one's practice and why they are highly recommended by all teachers. This is why one "takes refuge" in the shanga jewel. It supports your practice and makes it stronger. It's really not about "accountability" per say. It's really about keeping your practice strong. When your practice is strong, self-discipline is easy to come by.

    If this wasn't a good thing, the Buddha would not have called it a "jewel". Allowing other people to help you make your practice stronger is a good thing! :)

    I am sure this is an issue that plagues us all - maintaining a disciplined meditation practice.

    It is! What do I do when I encounter such difficulty? I do a group retreat. Problem solved! At least temporarily anyway, ha! When it wanes again, another group retreat, problem solved again! It goes something like that. :) The practice is like a plant. When it starts to wilt, you give it water. It will be pretty good for a while. When it starts drying out, give it more water again. Wilting problem solved, for now. :) If you just keep doing that over and over, the plant will never wilt very much and will stay strong the whole time. Until it dies of course, ha!

  • Tony_A_SimienTony_A_Simien Veteran
    edited October 2015


    I am finding that I have sort of reached a plateau in my practice...Everything seems to be in limbo.

    I feel that this is common among practitioners of all traditions. Even if for a short time.

    I know it's not always about achieving insights and such, but I don't feel like I am going anywhere with my practice.

    Insight into the inherent nature of things is precisely the point of practice.

    That's not to suggest that no insight amounts to a waste of time. Every moment of practice with or without insight is of equal value. It's all preparation for mind to understand the inherent nature of all things (the way it is when mind does not add to knowing; bare; unadulterated).

    No one can run a marathon if the body is not conditioned for that activity. In the same way, by preparing mind (single pointedness, mindfulness, meditation without support or form etc.) there may eventually occur insights, when the necessary conditions are present. But now there is space to allow understanding to happen.

    Now mind is more adept at cutting through the conventional world. Dispassion eventually follows this cutting through (insights into) reality. Once you realize what it really is, you eventually lose interest. Sometimes instantly but the more deeply rooted life long conditions require more thorough, deeper inquiries into mind.

    Practicing continuously is being always prepared for life's situations and better understanding them when they occur. If there is little space between thoughts, then the normal busy activity of mind interferes. It interferes by mixing potentially insightful knowledge with our previously learned experienced conventional mental world.

    Where as when there is just awareness of empty space where thoughts used to be, there is nothing there to interfere. Mind is in the background. Knowing is unadulterated. Nothing there to mix. Nothing to concoct.

    We are practicing to disentangle the knowing (Consciousness/Awareness) from the known (objects of Awareness/Consciousness).

    Practicing to understand experientially that there are objects (thoughts, beliefs, emotions etc.) and there is a knowing (awareness or attention which apprehends those objects) of them.

    To experience a distinctness between the one who knows (consciousness/awareness) and that which is known (the world, mental and physical).

    Practicing to realize that awareness of objects is always unadulterated (without names, definitions, descriptions, likes, aversion, craving, desire, judgment or beliefs).

    However, mind superimposes names, definitions, descriptions, likes, aversion, craving, desire, judgment or beliefs onto objects of our awareness.

    Then when I finally sit...

    Seated meditation could be compared to a martial artist practicing his technique without an opponent. Throwing kicks and punches into the wind.

    The moves which he practices becomes habitual. He can expertly, efficiently and with precision demonstrate proper form. But when he spars against an experienced opponent he is easily defeated.

    Because he does not understand how to apply the techniques he's learned to an attacking opponent. He may land a few blows. But he lacks real life experience.

    Practicing continuously (in all postures, during all activities) on the other hand is like learning to fight by actually fighting an experienced opponent. You learn how to move and counter by actually doing it in real life situations. Not just practicing alone where you have no opponent to punch and kick back.

    For example:

    What is the most effective method to overcome anger?

    Trying to be calm and even minded while seated with eyes closed?

    Or trying to be calm and even minded, using the method, while someone is screaming and cursing you?

    Which practice do you feel would yield the best results?

    How can we learn to overcome anger without anger present?

    Shouldn't we practice overcoming anger or any other defilement while it's actually occurring?

    Isn't practicing to overcome defilements without defilement arising at that moment, like practicing basketball without the ball?

    Doesn't it seem like it would be more beneficial to practice continuously and be anchored?


    Because when you are anchored you are less likely to get lost in the wandering mind. When you are secluded that's one thing. In the busyness of life is another. Having an anchor is beneficial always but especially during activity.

    So if your boss is reaming you a new asshole will you sit in their presence with eyes closed and hands in mudra?

    Or does it seem more effective to have an anchor and return to it continuously?

    So as your boss is smacking you around with their words, you can continuously return to your anchor after each slap across the face. This way you are learning, during the heat of the moment, how to overcome those intense emotions and possible reactions. Your anchor is support. It anchors you from being lost in the tidal forces of conditioned mind.

    So what seems the most beneficial to You?

    Seated on a cushion secluded from all the activity of the world. With only mind to contend with.


    Practicing continuously to learn to overcome minds influence. Practicing to overcome external influences on mind while actively engaging in the affairs of life; which cause these issues to arise in the mind?

    All forms of practice, which lead to dispassion and disentanglement of mind are beneficial. Whether they be seated forms and dynamic forms. Whatever best suits you.

    There is more than one method or tradition which leads to the cessation of suffering regardless of what some closed minded beings may think.

  • 'if you have no troubles buy a goat'
    traditional - Caravan of Dreams - Idries Shah

  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran

    Stagnation is a funny word because it means that the flow is stopping, slowing, becoming stale, something to that effect. Really, all phenomena are constantly in a state of ceasing (and new phenomena are in a state of arising immediately thereafter). What looks to us like change can be interpreted and recognized as utter cessation and total creation moment-by-moment.

    So when your practice stagnates, whatever that means, find someone with a problem you don't have [yet] and help em out. Life and practice weave together into a beautiful tapestry. Most of us are socially intermingled activist-minded persons so I think there is a lot of benefit in mentioning that if you feel like you are at the top of the mountain, take a look around and see if there is anyone else to whom you can offer your arm and hands.

    Regularity and rhythm are really the way to solid progress. Personally, I cultivate the wish "may I sit in meditation and relish every instant of it" on the days when I'm unable to actually make floor-friends with my cushions.

    Aside from all that talk and jazz, observation is possible in all moments. Observing the breath, letting it teach you about how you react (often without noticing or reflexively) will start to break down the barriers of "waking life" and "practice"

    In the dire situation where you are living like a god-realm rockstar and you have totally forgotten the value of meditation, reading, reflection, etc, it's never a bad idea to remember that the situation can change abruptly. Using the free and available time we have to better ourselves and learn from this blessed human body is something you can always rejoice in, and you will know your time was well spent. Enlightenment is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but the temporary problem will persist forever unless we make the effort now, while we can, "to put out the fire on our heads."

    Wishing you wellness and strength in your practice.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I'll just add that it's not like you notice 'hey, I've had a bagel, cream cheese and coffee for breakfast two weeks running, I think I'll change it up and have a egg McMuffin and hash brown and coffee for a change of pace."

    Meditation is a whole new thing every time. At least that's how I think of it. In my case, I use mindfulness as the gateway to meditation. It just keeps opening up to something else - usually it's just a new way of looking at an old problem, for example.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I drop a brick on my foot.

  • @Earthninja said:
    Baby boy is due in 4 weeks! I'm sure my meditation will turn into power naps! I have >no idea how it's going to colour my world.
    I've coloured his world(nursery) jungle African themed though!

    Congratulations Earthninja! I will be praying for a happy, healthy mother and son.
    Great picture of the nursery. <3

    Once you two get home, the ladies will, in general, be able to give you some sound advise regarding your interaction with your new son. (Experience counts <3 )
    The guys may think they know (some anyway), but we fellows, in general, tend to be clueless in this arena. :3

    Peace to you

    Peace to all

  • My life is actually pretty good so am I just becoming complacent or lazy with meditation?

    Yes! o:)

    ... well you did ask. ;) Perhaps this throws light on the saying, 'When you meet the Buddha on the road kill him'?
    What people again and again stumble over is practice is done, it is INDEPENDENT of circumstance, karma, like, dislike and 'need'. Bliss and difficulties are for the karmically swayed. Nothing going on is perhaps the really hard practice time?

    That is the point. You knew that. Sit on cushion.

    Try the 'chod' practice that @Glow recently posted 'feeding your demons'.

  • @ourself said:> I drop a brick on my foot.

    And then buy a goat. ;)

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @Lionduck said:
    Peace to all

    Hey thanks man! :) yup I know I don't know. How to be a dad 101 course will commence any day now. Mentored by the wife ofcourse :)

    Peace to all you guys n gals! :)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    "How do you maintain meditation self-discipline when life is good?"


    A thing I remember (and keep on remembering) ......Dukkha is Dukkha and comes in all shapes and sizes sometimes it's obvious, other times not so obvious, but regardless, one can rest assure dissatisfaction in whatever form it takes, is ever present....( even when life is good ) ...which BTW could mean one has slipped back into old habitual duellist thinking patterns of good & bad and with the old duellist thinking patterns comes the fan which is eagerly waiting to greet its friend Manure ...

    My life just flows along (some might say quite smoothly ) I put this down to the oil I use each morning and then again in the evening (oil=meditation) to maintain the flow...

    Some might not see regular meditation practice as an important part of their Dharma practice (I have friends who think this way) however the shit hits their fan on a regular bases and they're continually doing the same thing over and over again (falling back into habitual duellist thinking patterns) yet each time hoping for a different outcome...

    I guess it's a matter of When the student is ready...the teacher will appear

  • @Shoshin said: I guess it's a matter of When the student is ready...the teacher will appear

    I gave up waiting and set up my own group. The group has since been a great teacher. ;)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    "When the student is ready...the teacher will appear" ( ...in whatever form that best suits the student)

  • I recently 'bought a goat'. In other words created dukkha for myself. I decided to do an hours formal meditation for a while as a discipline. Normally I let meditation set its own time. If it goes over an hour or under twenty minutes both show there is a problem in my life style. However sometimes my dharma ascetic mode kicks in. :3

    Anyway using the free iphone insighttimer app. For some reason, physical pain, sloth, time checking every two minutes etc came in with a vengeance after a short while.

    How easy to just give up? Very easy.

    Did I?

    No. I iz stubborn, it is my Buddha goat nature. B)

  • perception of good and bad are projections of ego.
    there is only wise and not-wise.

  • @lobster said: I recently 'bought a goat'. In other words created dukkha for myself. I decided to do an hours formal meditation for a while as a discipline. Normally I let meditation set its own time. If it goes over an hour or under twenty minutes both show there is a problem in my life style. However sometimes my dharma ascetic mode kicks in.

    I've gone in the opposite direction, not timing meditation sessions at all. Good to see that we have restored the balance. ;)

  • @DhammaDragon said:

    The minutes I spend on my cushion feel so liberating, I swear I can almost feel my mind deflating and decompressing with each out-breath.


    Of course we had it tough. We had to meditate kneeling on a wood floor and if we were lucky our teacher would beat us with his bare fists.

  • Wood floor? sheer luxury. :o

  • Sorry new guys ... the 'Four Yorkshire men' sketch is a running joke here. :3

    I belonged to a Buddhist martial art group and we often meditated before training and always after. Only a few minutes meditation but it was done kneeling on the floor, which at the end of a hard training session felt quite easy ...

  • @Lionduck said> Wood floor? sheer luxury. :o

    You had a floor?! We could only dream about floors....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think we use boredom as an excuse a lot of time. I think boredom is a choice. Boredom is when we wish we were doing something other than what we are doing, feeling like we have to jump from one thing to the next and have something lined up. Then the second we don't have something lined up, we are "bored." The other day, a teen asked in a running forum how not to get bored on long runs. Everyone answers with "Audio books, music, podcasts" which is just more distraction. If you need to distract yourself from running, or meditation, or your job...ask yourself why. And what you can do about THAT rather than just distract yourself. If you appreciate each moment for what it is, then you don't have a chance to get bored. Not even while doing your taxes or waiting an extra hour at the doctor office. It's all just ego again, thinking it has somewhere better or more important to be. It's not even possible, because you can only be right where you are, right now. No where else. So best just to settle in and enjoy the scenery. It's a good time to practice appreciating the little things (which you often find aren't so little at all) and just breathing it in. Literally.

  • NeoNeo Here New


    Meditation should not be done with expectations. It is a time to put aside all else and simply clear the mind of thought. While you are meditating, expectations and all other thoughts should be set aside.

    The practice of meditation has many benefits, one of which is strengthening your ability to quiet your mind. The ability to quiet the mind is useful for helping to subdue or avoid emotional turbulence, for example.

    Whether things are good or bad, do not look for some "magical" thing or special insights to happen during meditation. When you are meditating just meditate, without thought or goal. When you are not meditating you will find you have much greater control over your own mind.

    An exception to the idea of meditating without thought or goal would be when you are meditating on something. But that's a different thing!

  • Meditation should not be done with expectations

    So true. Can be hard initially as we have a results/reward based monkey mind to contend with ...

    To counter the monkey mind avoiding 'good time no meditation' syndrome I pretend to meditate. In other words I just sit as if I am not pregnant or expecting or ... anything really ...


  • Let's read that sign one more time.
    It clearly says, 'DON'T FEED THE MONKEYS'. >:)

    Now back to the..oh, it's over... O.o

    On a more serious note, while I don't 'meditate' in a form you folks tend to present as such, I do my formal practice each morning and each evening, good times or bad. Sometimes I'm dancing in, so-to-speak and on some occasions it's as if I'm dragging the carcass that 10,000 steps up that 60% grade over the cactus and fire ants. But I do get there and get the mission accomplished. And, yup, I am guilty of missing a day here and there. The next day or morning or evening, it's start fresh time. [My informal practice is anytime, any place, for any reason.] The point is, by continuing when things are good, you are ready when they aren't so good.

    Back to that inviting pillow.

    Peace to all

  • I guess I just need to sit through the boredom as you guys suggest and stop feeding the monkeys and then see what happens…. thank you….

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Daiva said:
    I guess I just need to sit through the boredom as you guys suggest and stop feeding the monkeys and then see what happens…. thank you….

  • @Daiva said:
    My life is actually pretty good so am I just becoming complacent or lazy with meditation?

    You just need meditation that is better then your life, or compatible with it.

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