As with many things in life, our meditation practice can, at times, hit a plateau where progress seems to stall. During these dry periods, it can be difficult to find the motivation needed to sit on the mat and go on with our practice.
The first thing we need to remind ourselves is that these moments are a normal part of life. Just as our careers and relationships go through ups and downs, so does our meditation practice. From there, we must also remind ourselves that our practice should not come with stipulations: When we sit on the mat, we are meditating. We should not be focusing on “results” but rather on our practice. Because when we do start to focus on our results, we begin to label sessions as “good” or “bad” depending on how we felt during the practice.
A lot of thoughts and a hyper monkey mind? Bad practice! Complete ability to focus and no thoughts? Amazing practice! But at this point, we are confusing our mental state of the day (angry, restless, calm, joyful etc.) with our practice. Our mental state does not define whether our practice is good or bad!
Nevertheless, we can recognize plateaus and decreasing motivation, and use these difficult moments deepen your practice. Here are four strategies to help you get back on track.
Join a meditation group
Learning increases exponentially as we surround ourselves with others in the field in which we are trying to develop, especially if they are further down the path from us. Check out:
– reddit.com/r/meditation (a part of Reddit that is dedicated to sharing anecdotes, questions, and answers)
– meditation groups on meetup.com
Go on a retreat
In their book Altered Traits, David Goleman and Richard Davidson discuss the three levels of meditators. The “highest” level of meditators, the yogis, have amassed thousands of hours of meditation and have “altered traits,” or permanently altered characteristics and ways of being resulting from their prolonged meditation practice (as compared to the other levels, who have more impermanent and transient characteristics). An example of these altered traits is the ability to stay in the present moment or to be compassionate.
One of the key differences between the yogis and the other meditators is that the yogis had completed long-term meditation retreats. Retreats, the research shows, are fundamental to cultivating deeper practice. But we need not be yogis to attend a retreat.
During my first retreat, I was still relatively new to the practice. And through the two-week retreat in southern Thailand, I not only expanded my practice, but gained valuable insights into myself and my own life that still resonate with me today. But you don’t have to go to Asia for a retreat – there are many that are offered in the United States, some of which are offered by our teachers here at Innergy.
Bring the practice into your daily life
Like athletes training before a big game, our time on the mat serves a larger purpose: To prepare us for game night – daily life. To make this transition, it is important for us to make a conscious effort to bring what we learn during our practice into our day-to-day functions.
There are many ways through which we can accomplish this. We might take a moment to consciously observe our surroundings while in line at the café. We can take a deep breath while sitting at our desk or on the coach. We can notice the sensations in our body as we walk around the grocery store.
One of our partners, Scott Rodgers, wrote a book on the topic: The Elements of Mindfulness. In the book, Scott elaborates on different ways through which we can remind ourselves to be mindful in our daily lives. Some of these include becoming aware of our breathing as we feel the wind, or reminding ourselves of the transient and fleeting nature of thoughts when we look at the clouds. There are an infinite number of ways through which we can bring our practice to life: Figure out what works for you.
For more information on Scott’s book, refer to: http://sobemindful.com/
Read more books. Listen to podcasts. Use meditation apps. Some of our recommendations:
– Wherever You Go, There You Are by John Kabat-Zinn
– The Elements of Mindfulness by Scott Rodgers
– Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
– Anything by Thich Nhat Hanh
– Apps: Headspace and Insight Timer (or try a couple and see which ones you like)
– The Secular Buddhism Podcast
Author: Manuel teaches the Mindfulness class at Innergy Meditation – Sundays at 7:00 PM. SIGN UP HERE
Photo credits: Dmitry Pankin – unsplash.com