Author Topic: Why do people stop meditating?  (Read 5305 times)

Irfan

  • Guest
Why do people stop meditating?
« on: January 15, 2013, 02:48:49 AM »
I'm sure I'm not the only fitful meditator on the forum. By "fitful", I mean that I first started meditating more than 30 years ago, but that there have been gaps of years - a decade, at one point - where I didn't practice at all. Then, even after meditating every day for months, I find myself falling off the wagon.

We all know that meditation is "a good thing". So why don't we always keep on doing it?

Ha! I remember my father, not at all the sort of person that you'd expect to be interested in such things, came under the influence of a friend and started doing yoga regularly. For months, he was glowing with enthusiasm and clearly benefiting from the practice. I didn't see him for a while, but when I did I asked him how it was going. He said "I gave it up. i just got sick of feeling so damned healthy and well all the time." Haha. But perhaps he put his finger on it -- but what is "it"? Do we actually feel attached to our negative patterns, even when we recognize that they are negative?

I don't know. What do people think?

Mpgkona

  • Member
    • Some of this, some of that.
    • Here
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2013, 04:22:12 AM »
Yes, we all fall back into our typical "habit patterns." When I went on my first retreat I quit smoking, felt great, starting walking and exercising twice a day, and after two months fell right off the wagon and fell back into my normal routine. Unfortunately I don't meditate much anymore, although the practice of it is always on my mind. This sort of incongruence is exactly what the historical Buddha talked about. To him, he said life is suffering, or boring, or insufficient.  Whatever translation of "dukkah" you subscribe to, it's really irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, at least in the "modern" Western world, a life of meditation, or yoga, or a truly religious life, is boring. Modern American life is built entirely around a life of consumption (the complete antithesis of a Vipassana way of thinking). This life of consumption so permeates life that we consciously and sub consciously crave it, and the feeling or sensation it gives us. As the Anthropologist from UCLA (Robert Edgerton) in his book entitled "Sick Societies,"All societies are sick, but some are sicker then others."

Also, a life of meditation is quite difficult to lead in most places of the world. However popular yoga and meditation is in the West, living a life of true meditation, and Yoga (real full-blown yoga, and not the small aspect of it we practice in the West) it is still a very "fringe" and "new age" type of thing, for better or worse.
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Irfan

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2013, 04:59:28 AM »
Thanks for your reply, Mpgkona.

Yes, I guess it's a matter of habit patterns. In which case, it's really no more hard to fathom why people don't persist with meditation than why they don't keep swimming, or stick to a diet, or get up early or [insert your favorite NY resolution]. But but ... I think maybe there's a slightly different dynamic with NOT persisting with meditation. Maybe it's the fact that either meditation is not goal-orientated, or it's hard for us to understand our own goals, or that goals keep changing?

I know a yoga teacher who is quite a serious meditator, he once said modern hatha yoga is much easier to stick to than meditation, because our egos can easily appreciate the benefit of being physically in shape, feeling well, extra energy, but that there seems to be less pay off with meditation, which actually undermines and threatens the ego, so the ego finds excuses to avoid it.

Hmm. A counsellor I once spoke with talked about making the ego be a good servant of the higher self. Too bad she never really spelt out a plan for achieving that goal. 

Mpgkona

  • Member
    • Some of this, some of that.
    • Here
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2013, 05:06:43 AM »
I have to apologize for my own post. I looked back and see it was very pessimistic and satirical. When I said a life of meditation is boring I meant that boredom can be a product of the lifestyle when we are surrounded by the consumerist lifestyle all day long. 99.9% of the people I come in contact with cannot relate to a life of meditation. For me, I have meditated a lot and a glimmer of "reality" has revealed itself to me; however, I am one of those still in the matrix who has an understanding of it, has been outside of it, but cannot fully comprehend (either willfully or not) the ramifications of it. I, we, most people, crave the matrix and the "good" sensations that it produces minute in and minute out, in this world of instant gratification. I am no less guilty of having and liking these sensations then anyone else. I believe it's very difficult to try to escape the modern world. I live in a huge concrete infested metropolitan city, and also moved away from it to a ultra rural area of Hawaii. And to be quite honest, I don't believe there is anywhere in the US that you can escape a consumeristic way of life (save for a cabin in the deep woods, miles away from anyone). And even if you, we did, our way of life, thinking, living, etc. would not leave us, which is the purpose of meditation. It allows us to see reality for what it really is, whatever that is.

Sorry, I've gone off a tangent so I'll end it now.

Be Happy!!!
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Mpgkona

  • Member
    • Some of this, some of that.
    • Here
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2013, 05:15:03 AM »
Exactly, we can't see the rewards of meditation. Which all goes back to the idea of instant gratification. Meditation is a very solitary "act." Meditation is different for everyone, so discussing what you go through during, before, and after meditation is very difficult to do. Physical yoga is pretty cut and dry. Everyone is doing the same thing, and I would suspect most do it for the physical benefits. But meditation, although seemingly, and outwardly done for mental health, really impacts all aspects of health including the physical. However, and as you said, the benefits are not clear, and can take a lifetime (or more) to see.
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Irfan

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2013, 05:27:39 AM »
Hi Mpgkona, I didn't find your post pessimistic or satirical.

Incidentally, I live in Jakarta, Indonesia, so I can't claim that a "Westernized" or "American" environment is responsible for creating cravings and aversions. Haha. I think you'll find most modern Asians will give the average American a run for their money when it comes to the consumerist life-style.

More seriously, I'm not sure about your point about boredom. You mention a "life of meditation". At the moment, I don't plan to spend most of my time meditating. I'm not a buddhist, and I don't plan to take monastic vows. I don't necessarily believe that I have to give up anything, other than an hour of time each day, to meditate. So I'm not sure why a "life of meditation" has to be "boring". But at the same time, I do see that I have a pattern of a cycle of enthusiasm for meditation, followed by disinclination. At times, I can persist through disinclination. I can find myself wanting to cut a meditation session short and try to watch that thought mindfully, rather than act upon it. But sometimes, the thought gains control. And then I'll find a few days have gone by ....

Masauwu

  • Member
    • chipping away
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2013, 06:46:09 AM »
It takes a bit of discipline, a lot of patience and the acceptance that we will slip from time to time. This is where it helps to bring the mindfulness from sitting meditation to everyday life, even if it's just for brief moments at first. And maybe we can play around a bit and imagine our life is the meditation, daily practice is the object of meditation and each time we forget to do it or we feel bored or impatient - we note that thought or feeling and return to the object.
The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

MountainKing

  • Member
  • Write something about yourself here
    • Goenka/Experimental
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2013, 01:01:13 PM »
For the same reason people don't work out daily, or eat unhealthy despite knowing its benefits. Lack of discipline

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2013, 08:10:26 PM »
Exactly, we can't see the rewards of meditation. .....

This is not a statement that agrees with my experience, or even the latest research. The benefits of meditation are often clearly visible within days or weeks. Even science is catching up with this - a recent study found three weeks of 20 minutes a day of meditation produced positive brain chemistry changes that persisted even after meditation was stopped (can't find the link right now).

So why do people stop meditating .... three major reasons come to mind:

1) The Buddha used the metaphor that walking the path was like a bowl floating upstream against the water. In a society where we are surrounded by others going with the flow (of the stream) .. to keep to the choice and discipline of practice is remarkably hard. It is made harder by the other two reasons I'll highlight:

2) People don't always know why they are meditating beyond a vague sense of things not being right perhaps. They go along to the nearest/most convenient/recommended meditation centre and start learning techniques. BUT they are rarely taught the goal in a proper way. And if they were most would walk out and not even start.

3) Additionally many forms of practice have developed and I disagree with the theory there are "many routes up the mountain". If there were then people would be successfully finding them often - and that is not happening. So the third reason I propose many people give up is that they are doing it wrong and that isn't their fault .. it is the fault of the person(s) teaching them the WHY and the HOW.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Renze

  • Member
    • Ungrounded
    • No hope
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2013, 09:45:34 PM »
I agree with Matthew for the most part. I would also like to add that a regular and consistent meditation practice requires a very structured life, at least that is my experience. Anything that disrupts the daily routine or structure, like a new job, new home, a new partner or whatever, can easily make you stop meditating and go with the flow of the stream instead.

Irfan

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2013, 02:28:45 AM »
This is not a statement that agrees with my experience, or even the latest research. The benefits of meditation are often clearly visible within days or weeks. Even science is catching up with this - a recent study found three weeks of 20 minutes a day of meditation produced positive brain chemistry changes that persisted even after meditation was stopped (can't find the link right now).

I was listening to a BBC podcast on this last night:

http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/mindfulness-and-brain-audio

In this final episode Professor Mark Williams and Danny Penman discuss how imaging studies show that Mindfulness may have numerous profoundly positive effects on the brain.

Matthew, you said:

I disagree with the theory there are "many routes up the mountain" ...

Hehe. Yes, I'm new here, but I've noticed that you have strong opinions about that. I guess the fact that there is objective evidence that the type of "mindfulness meditation" being discussed by Williams does have a measurable positive impact on brain chemistry suggests that it at least goes some of the way up the mountain.

Actually, I do notice the positive impact of meditation, particularly in stressful situations. I'm a freelance editor/writer/translator in Jakarta, I'm in the middle of a difficult, unenjoyable project at the moment. Yesterday, my frustration with it was compounded with electricity blackouts resulting in the loss of a few hours of work. I sat last night, beginning with a fast pulse rate and butterflies in the stomach. By the end of a short 15 minute session, I felt that the tension had gone completely - no, not completely, but subsided.

I also think meditating while walking or doing yoga is just plain simple fun.

Irfan

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2013, 02:49:52 AM »
I would also like to add that a regular and consistent meditation practice requires a very structured life, at least that is my experience. Anything that disrupts the daily routine or structure, like a new job, new home, a new partner or whatever, can easily make you stop meditating and go with the flow of the stream instead.

Haha. Well, that doesn't auger well for me, then. I have a very UNstructured life -- a lot of travel on work, often staying in villages with limited privacy (I work in the development sector), some days with 16 hours work, then some weeks with practically nothing. And my relationship status is best described as "complicated" (although not necessarily "interesting" or "satisfactory"). I have a few health issues to deal with, nothing critical, but even so. And my share of psychological issues, although nothing that could be categorized as a serious mental illness. I don't think those things are going to change quickly.

My sister is quite involved in meditation, too. She's currently riding a push-bike from Alaska to Argentina, often camping or sleeping rough on people's floors. I asked her about how she keeps up the practice on the road, she said it's difficult. She talked about using Catholic churches along the route as safe venues for meditation, I don't know how she's doing with it.

So, I like to think the structured life this is NOT a vital prerequisite.

joy

  • Member
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2013, 04:01:26 AM »
It has always been a good time pass discussing M.
Not to do excuses are abundant, always available.
Even we spent hours in analyzing ‘Why do people stop M’
When M really started, we may find hardly any excuses to stop it.
Joy

redalert

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2013, 12:46:16 AM »
1.Sensual desire (kāmacchanda): Craving for pleasure to the senses.
 2.Anger or ill-will (byāpāda, vyāpāda): Feelings of malice directed toward others.
 3.Sloth-torpor or boredom (thīna-middha): Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
 4.Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): The inability to calm the mind.
 5.Doubt (vicikicchā): Lack of conviction or trust.

GiantRumblebuffin

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2013, 10:45:02 AM »
What hasn't been mentioned yet is that meditation involves facing up to reality. Which is a scary thing. Especially if you have been brought up in the Western habit pattern of numbing out reality with food, shopping, TV etc.

Ive only just started noticing how much I run from reality even during my practice.

Falkov

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2013, 05:25:24 AM »
Quote
What hasn't been mentioned yet is that meditation involves facing up to reality.

That's one of the reasons I continue to meditate.  I didn't want to live my life in illusion, pretending to be something which I am not, thinking that everything is peachy while it is rotten from the inside out.   Give me a what is, and I'll see if it is possible then make it happen- instead of what should have, could have been ( in a different universe).     Another reason is to overcome the fear, worry, hatred, greed,jealousy, undisciplined thoughts- I had suffered enough of them mentally and spiritually.

Why do people stop meditating? I guess for the opposite reasons of why I keep meditating.

TCozy119

  • Guest
Re: Why do people stop meditating?
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2013, 10:18:47 PM »
I'm sure I'm not the only fitful meditator on the forum. By "fitful", I mean that I first started meditating more than 30 years ago, but that there have been gaps of years - a decade, at one point - where I didn't practice at all. Then, even after meditating every day for months, I find myself falling off the wagon.

We all know that meditation is "a good thing". So why don't we always keep on doing it?

Ha! I remember my father, not at all the sort of person that you'd expect to be interested in such things, came under the influence of a friend and started doing yoga regularly. For months, he was glowing with enthusiasm and clearly benefiting from the practice. I didn't see him for a while, but when I did I asked him how it was going. He said "I gave it up. i just got sick of feeling so damned healthy and well all the time." Haha. But perhaps he put his finger on it -- but what is "it"? Do we actually feel attached to our negative patterns, even when we recognize that they are negative?

I don't know. What do people think?

I've been reading these forum discussions for about a year and a half now, and this question finally made me get an account just so I can answer. I started meditating almost 2 years ago, when I was 20, and I wasn't really sure why I was doing it other than I was in a transition period in my life and that I've always had a kind of strange fascination with Buddhism (now that I look back on my life up till now). Movies like the Matrix, etc., really blew my mind as a kid and I guess I wanted to finally 'travel the path' for myself. I also started meditating because I had just quit cigarettes then relapsed and wanted to see if this couldn't get rid of that unwanted uneasiness I had been using cigarettes for. But in all honesty, the real appealing thing for me was this idea of "enlightenment" and the awe and mystery that surrounds it, and that maybe I could reach this state myself someday, and what that might mean for my life. Well long story short, I went into meditation pretty heavily at first, basically berating myself mentally everytime I had a thought during meditation and focused intensely every day on trying to notice nothing else except the breath, yahda yahda, you know the rest. I experimented with life itself outside meditation in pretty insane ways, i.e doing drugs and smoking more cigarettes than ever before, testing how far i could push my mischevious behavior. Seven months after I started, it ended with me having something along the lines of a panic attack, but not a real panic attack, just me ranting to a few buddies of mine and asking them if something was wrong with me. After that, I decided to stop meditating indefinitely.
At that time, and I think this is kind of what you're getting at, I felt like I was trapped 'on the path' with no way of escape. I had essentially put all my chips on the table on one poker hand (meditation) and told myself whatever happens happens, but that either way I couldn't give it up. Well naturally I wanted out. Who wouldn't. So I stopped. And when I did, it really was like the weight of everything, all my problems I've ever had, had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt like a real person again, and I felt like myself again for the first time in years. And i mean YEARS. It was amazing. But the better I felt as time went on, the more there was this kind of nagging feeling that "Hey, clearly it wasn't meditation that was the enemy there. The enemy was this part of that was never satisfied, that couldn't ever slow down and reevaluate a situation." And the whole time I was meditating I was always trying so hard to focus, trying so hard to see what everyone else was seeing. Actually, I wasn't even meditating in the true sense of the act. I always used the edge of my bed to keep my back straight because I "wasnt ready" to try to sit fully straight yet. See what Im getting at here? So about 8 months after I stopped meditating, I decided to try it again. And at first it was just one time. But that one time felt so good, because I wasnt trying to do something amazing like I was before. I just sat there and relaxed. Well I actually ended up doing it every day again, and things are going great so far. That was almost 6 months ago. Because now I just do it to relax. My life doesn't revolve around it. And ironically now I really am seeing what these Buddhist monks are talking about. How you can stop your life as you know it and give up things that upset your peaceful state of being. I do still know what you mean though, because I feel the paradoxical nature of it. You meditate to teach yourself to stop chasing things, but that should mean that you should eventually stop meditating. I dont know. Right now Im doing it to relax my mind and fine-tune my lifestyle and everyday decisions. I do it to help my posture as well. So there you have it. Im not really thinking about how far its going to take me. Im thinking about far I'M going to take me. after all, im the one meditating. Lol.