When your meditation practice feels stuck or hits a wall

November 19, 2014

A friend recently wrote and said she was having problem with motivation regarding meditation, that she wasn’t feeling “centered” and felt like she had hit a wall. I’m about to get away from technology for a little while, so I replied to her as follows, with the caveat that I would be a way for a while and this was a little rushed:

My reply

First, I think it’s important to know what your motivation is. Why do you meditate? Being clear about that helps keep you going during the down times.

Second, there will be down times. As Part A of that, things happen in life that make it harder to take time to meditate. For instance, if you were single, I’d say you might fall in love with someone, and during that time you might be in a state of love such that you might not want to meditate during that time.

As Part B of that, “enlightenment” isn’t a linear path. It’s much more of a roller-coaster ride. Right now it sounds like you’ve hit a wall, so I’d do one of two things. Option 1, take a break from it. Do some other things until your motivation comes back.

I once hit a wall that lasted for years. I referred to it as World War III, because I knew that wall felt huge, and to get through it would require incredible effort.

A second choice is to push through that wall. In my case, after that long break, that’s what I finally did. But during all that break I was summoning up my willpower, knowing that one day I would fight that fight.

A final thing I recommend is to practice in a group, and/or plan to attend some sort of related event. For instance, back in 2008 my yoga practice was waning, and then I just happened to see a “yoga vacation” in Mexico coming up in six months. So I signed up for that vacation on the spot, knowing it would force me to practice yoga harder than ever before. It was a great motivator, and a great trip. In a similar way I’ve gone on several Zen meditation retreats.

Regarding death, yes, death of this physical body will happen to us all. Part of meditation is preparing us for that event. But I’ve found that thinking about death isn’t very helpful. If you’re thinking about death you’re not thinking about the present moment, but if you focus on the present moment, things have a way of taking care of themselves, both now and at the moment of death (death of this physical body).

I hope something in there is helpful. :)

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