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I'm going through a period of meditating every day which is not how I usually practice. Before I would meditate 5-6 times a week then deliberately not do more as I would seem to 'run dry' and lose my feeling for it and felt like a needed a gap. So I'm trying just to keep going and see how that works.

But how important is constancy in meditation? - is it better just to ease off for a day if you feel depleted with it or would the thing be to keep with it even if the practice feels dry and barren.

Many thanks as always

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Your question is concerned about motivation and constancy, right?

Answering the latter briefly: Yes, constancy is important & also the quality of it. This can be compared to every skill really. This is why meditation should be practised also in daily life (which would be sila really).

Moving on with motivation: I believe that a novice needs to start slowly. Once you reap the benefits, i.e., calmness & tranquility, you want to do it more often because of its pleasant nature.

Personally, I use certain "tricks" to make it easier to start meditating:

  1. Depending on your level of motivation set yourself a small goal, say 5 to 10 minutes & try to achieve that. The idea here is thar usually motivation comes by actively doing the very thing you want to do. Setting small goals in your mind will facilitate action.

  2. Oppose in written form and/or in your mind both options, that is, slacking off & meditating. Write for each option the pros and cons, both short-term and long-term. Imagine how farther you could be in, say, a month from now if you'd meditate regularly (both formally and informally). Then, imagine how you'll end up if you slack off/procrastinate. Keep the costs of procrastinating and the short & long term benefits of meditating well in your mind and really focus on them several times a day.

  3. Know your WHY. What is the reason you want to meditate? What's in for you? This is strongly connected to number 2.

  4. If you, for example are usually practising mindfulness with breathing, I'd suggest to maybe change the meditation (at least in the beginning of the meditation)

Discursive meditations can be easier at the beginning than breath awareness because the breath is a rather neutral object, whereas loving-kindness (or any other thinking meditation) is more stimulating because you don't force the unruly & stubborn mind to be quite; instead you let the mind think, but in a disciplined and organized way.

  1. Realise that conditions must not be the way you want them to, meaning: You can still take actions even if you feel no motivation. This is uncomfortable, but remind yourself that you can stand the uncomfort & that it's worth standing it (because you have a goal in mind).

With that said, there is feeling-based motivation and value-based motivation. The former can be quite strong, but it's dependent on you being motivated. Unfortunately, motivation often comes by doing something. If you can accept this grim reality, you will be better off, and not fall prey to your current frame of mind.

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    +1 for this. The way I was instructed, consistency is important (duh!) - however, the trick is to not develop a secret subconscious resistance to meditation by making it into a grunt. So starting small and finding all kinds of tricks to keep oneself motivated is the way to go. – Andrei Volkov Feb 13 at 15:32
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    True. Personally, I believe that flexibility is very important. Setting smaller goals, tolerating short term uncomfort & viewing the pro's and cons of procrastination can facilitate the process. If all these methods fail (because we are fallible and sometimes life throws a lot of stuff we can't handle at the moment) it is again important to remain flexible, that is, showing acceptance and compassion towards one self and trying to learn from the mistakes. – Val Feb 13 at 15:39
  • Thank you for the answer +1. It's hard to explain but I generally don't have issues with low motivation. It's the other way around - I have issues with excessive internal demands tightening my experience. The gaps are to do with doubt, I struggle with your comment 'What is the reason you want to meditate? '. I sometimes think it would be better to give up the entire shooting match and just be kind to people. I gave up for approx a year recently and that's not the answer either. Anyway thanks for the answer – Crab Bucket Feb 13 at 21:17
  • What do you mean by 'I gave up for approx a year'? Meaning, you left Buddhism? – Val Feb 13 at 22:49
  • OK - so for me I only identify as a Buddhist for as long as I am practising. So I stopped meditation practise for that length of time and didn't concern myself with Buddhism. So I guess that is leaving Buddhism. – Crab Bucket Feb 14 at 1:51
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I'm just wondering - if you were to take an antibiotic and not feel the effects, would you lay off the medication for a couple of days? Meditation is really no different. Nothing is more important than the consistency of the dosage. Some days you'll have sits where the heavens open up and angels start singing. Other days it's a slog. Your legs hurt, your breathing is shallow, and nothing appears to be happening. Rest assured, however, that something always is happening. Tectonic karmic plates are shifting slow deep underground. Keep applying the pressure of practice and the tremors of insight will eventually rise to the surface. If anything, those sits where you feel like you're "running dry" are the most important. The effort that it takes to actually get your butt onto the cushion is exponentially more important than the focused bliss you feel during a good sit. The selfless offering that you make of yourself to your practice is what makes change happen.

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is it better just to ease off for a day if you feel depleted with it or would the thing be to keep with it even if the practice feels dry and barren.

Might want to investigate why your meditation feels dry and barrent first? Afterall, among the 3 trainings of Sila/Samadhi/Panna, the purpose of Samadhi's supposed to bring about Piti/Sukha/Upekkha sufficient enough to propel one to the next stage of Panna.

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Meditation is life. You have ups and downs, happy, unhappy, stucked, fastmoving periods in life. So meditation would be like that too. Having aversion to meditation, feeling disconnected or not doing meditation for some period of time can be part of meditation too. But I think the important thing is the effort. Effort will not be the primary thing when the mindfulness becomes spontaneous for the meditators, but untill the meditator reaches that stage, effort will be a very helpful tool to keep you meditating.

So when you have free time and you feel ready to meditate for 8 or more hours, that's fine. If you want to meditate for an hour or few hours a day that's fine. If you feel like you want to take a break in meditation that's fine. If you want to practise mindfulness in your free times and not do formal meditation, that's also fine. As long as you have the effort these things doesn't matter much. But I think that practising mindfulness in daily life(when you meditate or not doesn't matter) is important because that is the only thing that keep you connected to spirituality. So just be mindful when you walk, sit, wash your hands etc.. and that will be a very effective meditation and will help you to return to formal meditation sooner or later.

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