Is meditation making me lazy?
Is contentment with my life a bad thing?
I started meditation during the lockdown. I think that many people did. It was a time of less interaction, more contemplation, reflection and searching for meaning in it all.
We also realised that we could exist with much less than we previously thought. I have seen evidence of this in the increase in early retirement parties I’ve invited to post lockdown.
The advertising for mediation talks about improved focus increased awareness, clarity, compassion, and a sense of calm.
However, meditation makes me tired, slows me down, relaxes me, and makes me feel 'chill' — AKA unmotivated.
I'm concerned that it is reducing my drive to succeed (even though I never really knew what I wanted to succeed at), and I am simply getting lazy and losing my drive in life.
Considering my newfound practice of fear-setting, my concerns are that I will settle for less, lose momentum in my professional life, not be a role model for my daughter and maybe even lose my wife as I am not motivated to build the life that we both previously aspired to.
As I start writing this article, I don't have the answers to the question, but hopefully, a search of google, youtube, social media, and Reddit does.
Let's start the way any good article does, by defining what I am talking about and asking the question, what actually is laziness?
When I came up with the idea for this article, it was on the back of spending two hours in the afternoon watching Better Call Saul on Netflix.
Now it was a Saturday, and I had nothing else planned, but the 'me’ of the past would be looking for something to do during this time.
Not necessarily work, but at least tending to my garden fence that needs painting, the garage that needs tidying up or the sorting of old clothes in my wardrobe.
Let’s be serious for a minute, I am kidding myself, I would not have done any of those chores, but I would have spent the two hours or more working on building my Niche Nuclear Jobs Board.
I am starting to feel more happy and content with what I have, which is undoubtedly reducing my drive to continue to work towards something more significant.
But what do I mean by lazy? In the context of my concerns that meditation is recruiting my drive and motivation to strive of more.
I found an article in which it is highlighting that there are two types of laziness associated with meditation.
- When the mind does not want you to meditate, trying to talk you out of it.
- Having a lazy mind during meditation leaving you feeling like you’ve had a nap — often compared to a slow-moving elephant*.
These are good points, and I will return to them in another post, but that is not what I mean when I talk about meditation making me lazy.
*Interesting fact; for this reason, many meditational deities are depicted holding a goad, the weapon used to prod an elephant.
"So the real question behind "will meditation make you lazy", is will meditation create that dull mental [legargic] energy in you? Making you a habitual dull [lazy] person?"
[words in square brackets are my own].
Okay, I have defined my concerns about meditation making me lazy.
But is it just fear, or I am genuinely becoming more lethargic?
A previous study highlight that "mindfulness makes people feel better, but seems to discourage them from working hard."
However, the trial itself is critically challenged due to the small length of the meditation practices (20 mins) and questions about the mastery of meditators.
The challenges to the study are made on the knowledge that people new to meditation often feel tired and lazy. It is not until after regular daily practice that meditation improves energy, attention and focus.
I also found a handy forum thread regarding whether the practice of meditation and the acceptance of “what is" can lead to a lack of motivation to get up and do something with your time or sit around doing nothing, enjoying the moment.
One comment that stood out from the thread was:
"Welcome to the rock-and-a-hard-place that is sometimes called "meditation."
The difficulty you mention is the difficulty that is addressed by a literal, physical sit-down-straighten-your-spine-sit-still-shut-up-and-focus-the-mind practice.
Bit by bit, strength and courage grow. Bit by bit, the demand for relief recedes. Bit by bit, the tricks become just tricks … no need to be tricked by them."
My takeaway from this comment is, ‘This is normal. Bear with it, and it will all work out in the end.’
This gives me hope, as I am pretty new on my journey with meditation. If what I'm feeling is quite normal, I am happy to persevere.
Of all of the successful people Tim Ferriss interviewed, 80–90% of them claimed to have some daily meditation process. So, there has to be something in it, right?
This is further backed up by The Pragmatic Seeker in which they state in their article:
"A hard-working person will actually gain from meditation in two ways.
Firstly your anxiety will go away. Secondly, if there is any tendency to become lazy, that will also disappear.
So by all means, throw this apprehension out of the window that meditation will make you lazy."
I believe that meditation is a way of rewriting our negative tendencies into positive ones and consciously choosing how we behave rather than react.
When you start, it means you are more aware of your thoughts and feelings and generally how you behave.
By being more mindful, you begin to recognise envy, jealousy, lust, greed and when you're being a selfish, arrogant and generally bad person.
But, meditation doesn't make you a bad person; it makes you aware of what was already there. The hard part is seeing all this negativity. Once you turn on the light, you can start to see your true self.
Don't be scared of the negativity at first, don't think it is taking you down a dark road — not the path you saw on the advert for the meditation app anyway. You may not like what you see in the first instance, but ultimately you will get to where you want to be.
Motivation is borne out of discontent with the state of the world at present.
So, in summary, although I feel some effects of meditation that I currently deem to be negative, resulting in less motivation than I previously had, I will stick with meditating daily.
However, I will change how I meditate by making it a more active process.
I will only sit quietly for a while in mindfulness meditation when I need to calm my racing mind or when I know that I am not feeling physically tired at the time.
I refer to a comment in a forum thread in which a story from Zen teachings is told:
"Someone asked a Zen Master, "How do you practice Zen?"
The master said, "When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep."
"Isn't that what everyone does anyway?"
The master replied, "No, No. Most people entertain a thousand thoughts when they eat and scheme over a thousand plans when they sleep"."
Whenever doing something, do. It is getting started that is difficult. Should I sit and watch Netflix as I feel calm and happy with life, or do I get out into the garden and paint the fence I have been putting off for weeks?
Another example I found in an article talked about a Carl Jung quote that captures their meditation process perfectly:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.” Carl Jung
One meditation practice I like is summarised by Miranda Ayim:
"Step 1: Close your eyes.
Step 2: Sit with what comes up
I like this approach as it leaves time for you to sit in stillness but gives the mind the flexibility to do whatever it wants.
I'm happy to stew on a problem, relive past failures, and worry about things that have not yet happened in the contentment that I am letting the brain do what it wants to do.
I know this is not ‘meditation’, but I feel, in some way, this will help me to become ‘the watcher’ rather than trying to stop the mind from thinking.
I will need to set a countdown timer for this, as I fear that I will either fall asleep or daydream for hours if I allow myself.
So, is meditation making me lazy?
However, I believe this lethargy is a temporary consequence of bringing into focus thoughts and feelings that I hadn't noticed before, and my mind is fighting back and trying to dissuade me from continuing.
I am not my mind, and I will continue anyway.