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I had meditated for some time for 30 min once or twice daily. Now, I am suffering from what seems to be anhedonia, a difficulty in feeling pleasure and being motivated. It makes it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to meditate, and even if I have plenty of time and the yearning to meditate, I cannot seem to sit and do it.

What might one do when motivation is extremely low? Is there no other option than to just 'force oneself' and do it?

  • I found "Encouragements Towards Awakening" By Bhante Bodhidhamna to be especially helpful at motivating me even at my lowest. – Lowbrow Oct 14 '19 at 10:12
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If you find some motivation then there are worldly practices to cultivate motivation. When the beginners enthusiasm wore off I just googled how to get motivated. Like how to keep to a schedual. You can trick yourself. You just schedule a sit for only 2 minutes. That's easy to actually do and then when you sit you often will have more momentum past 2 minutes. Then you keep doing it and grow a habit and gradually increase your time. This is just an example. There are different ways to be unmotivated.

You can chant up some motivation. Read inspirational quotes over and over. There are all kinds of little practices.

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Contemplate: death may come at any moment hence I have to strive to practice with diligence and without delay. This will create saṃvega and motivate you.

“But how, bhikshu, do you cultivate the mindfulness of death?”

“Here, bhante, I do it thus:

'Indeed, should I live just the time it takes to breathe in and then out, to breathe out and then in, I would wisely attend to the Blessed One’s teaching, much indeed would be done by me!'

Thus, bhante, I cultivate the mindfulness of death.”

(Atthaka) Maranasati Sutta 1

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For most folks just starting out on The Path, it is because we've begun to see the most crucial truth Buddha preached - that life is suffering. This is the impetus behind beginning the incredibly difficult and arduous path of meditation. However, when one's will to practice wanes, it's usually due to one of two reasons:

1) They've become content with life as it is. This should be obvious, because if one were truly discontent, with an answer to said negativity right in front of them, they would continue to practice. But it sounds like your mind, on the whole, has tricked itself into believing your current worldview is "good enough". So go into the question deeply and really ask yourself, are you happy enough? Do you have a craving to seek and find Reality? Can you live with your generating negative karma, with all its harmful effects on the world, until you die?

Or

2) You've become disillusioned about your meditation practice. This has happened to me several times, more so when I first began practicing. What's happened is, your techniques are not yielding sufficient benefits that the time and effort invested seem worth it. This most likely suggests that a) you're not practicing enough or b) you're not practicing correctly. Not only that, but when you start seeing the truth in Buddha's teachings, you should grow intensely excited and interested. This is because real meditation takes a fierceness and presence of mind that will come from a will so strong that it can overcome your anhedonia and spur on practice. Ironically, Buddhism is the most selfish belief system in the world until its not, and in the same way this will required to initially get off your ass must over time be deconstructed, dismantled, and discarded.

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On a larger scale, you can as Suminda mentioned, reflect on death. Not knowing when or how it will strike, but that it's guaranteed to happen.

Also, reason-based-motivation is probably the most effective way to get the engine going. Write down the very reasons why you choose to meditate. Do a list of all the benefits, short-term, long-term and life-long wise, both for yourself & for others.

Reflect on this list whenever you can. Whenever procrastination comes up, recognize it, allow it to be there, be curious and act in a value-based manner, despite the short-term discomfort.

Gradually, you learn with this method to relate differently to uncomfortable thoughts & feelings, so they have a lesser grip on you. You also experientially come in contact with benefits that meditation has to offer, for example a tranquil mind and being independently with yourself, without distraction.

Before I forget: Failing along the way is to be expected, so be kind to yourself, don't beat yourself up because it's not helping you. See what works and what doesn't and get back on track.

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This is because you approach meditation as doing. Your samsaric mind is in the habit of locking in on a goal and taking steps to attain it. In those cases, the goal is something desirable, something valuable, something that should be good to attain. So when you are working towards a goal, you feel good about pursuing a worthy goal and you feel good about making progress towards something valuable.

However, meditation is not "doing". Meditation is "no-doing" or "un-doing" (wu-wei). The object of meditation is letting go. So for your samsaric mind, the goal of meditation is not valuable! There is nothing lucrative for it to lock on. This is why it feels demotivated. The objective of meditation is to kill the samsaric mind. Of course it has not a slightest interest in going in that direction!

There are two ways to solve this problem.

One is to set some kind of goal for the samsaric mind. Like Enlightenment or Nirvana. The more you think about the pointlessness of Samsara and the more you convince yourself how great and awesome it is to be Enlightened, the more motivation you will create for the samsaric mind. This is a good and valid method, especially for beginners.

For more advanced practitioners it may not work though. Because at some point your realization of Emptiness starts to mature and you may not be able to convince yourself that Nirvana or Enlightenment is a THING solid enough to strive for. At some point you begin to see emptiness of it all, and the tricks that work for a more primitive mind no longer work.

When you reach this point you should switch gears and approach meditation as an exercise of wu-wei, not doing. To do this you should focus exactly on being self-sufficient in the moment, on being in peace, on having just enough - without thinking of meditation as something you DO. Makes sense?

When you do it like that, what you practice is suchness which is the real point of meditation. Then, motivation is not an issue, or more properly speaking motivation is not applicable, because strictly speaking you are no longer "meditating". You are just dwelling in peace. Motivation is only needed for going after something. You don't need motivation in order to dwell in peace.

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