Guilt when we don't meditate

I was up to 5 hours a day of meditation recently, but in the last 10 days or so, I haven’t meditated once. I feel incredibly guilty for not doing it as well. Still keeping the precepts of course, but just haven’t felt like meditating and have been obsessed with playing music from the moment I get up until I go to bed.

Anyone else feel bad when they are in a meditation slump?

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Of course there is no reason to feel guilty. Meditation is something you do for yourself. You might want to do some journaling to try to discover why you feel guilty. Then forgive yourself and move on.

Scientific research, in addition to thousands of years of human experience have shown that daily consistency is the most important contributor to getting results from meditation.

When you don’t feel like doing 5 hours, instead of canceling it completely, why not do 15 minutes instead?

When you don’t feel like doing it, honestly promise yourself that all you have to do is to sit down in your spot and do it for 5 minutes. Emphasize to yourself that you can quit “guilt free” at the end of 5 minutes. Time it. At the worst you will have gotten 5 minutes instead of nothing. You come out ahead. I think you will find more often than not that you will want to do more. This method works with anything else you don’t feel like doing in the moment.

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Would it help to broaden your understanding of ‘meditation’?

You might not have formally sat down on a cushion for a period, but it sounds like you’ve been noticing change (anicca) - change in your feelings (guilt arising), desires (for playing music), thoughts, etc. It sounds like you’re aware of dukkha, and you can probably reflect on the fact that all these phenomena are not you (anattā), else you would simply choose a different experience.

These kinds of wise reflections are not dependent on putting the body into any particular position, so maybe you have been engaging in a practice (whatever you happen to call it) after all.

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If you don’t meditate I would not worry at all but if you are not working on abandoning your fears, aversions and cravings then I would start being concerned.

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Motivation has three levels, the first being clear knowing of the condition of the self and impermanence, with the focus on actions. This is not necessarily sitting meditation, in fact too much of that causes an imbalance in perspective, and insight is essential to stabilize the other four spiritual faculties (SN 48.52).

“Simply that I am beset by birth, aging, & death; by sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs; beset by stress, overcome with stress, [and I hope,] “Perhaps the end of this entire mass of suffering & stress might be known!” Now, if I were to seek the same sort of sensual pleasures that I abandoned in going forth from home into homelessness — or a worse sort — that would not be fitting for me.’ So he reflects on this: ‘My persistence will be aroused & not lax; my mindfulness established & not confused; my body calm & not aroused; my mind centered & unified.’ Having made himself his governing principle, he abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is unblameworthy, and looks after himself in a pure way. This is called the self as a governing principle.”—AN 3.40

Later with concentration development there is awareness of help and guidance from other minds rather than dependence on the self.

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Can you link this research? Because meditation is quite a tricky thing, considering that most “results” are self-reported, and thus cannot be truly proven the way gravity can be proven to exist.

There is no “daily minimum” one must sit and meditate. I have not found, and please feel free to share if it exists, a sutta that states that one must meditate daily for xx minutes/hours/etc.

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Finally pulled myself out of my slump and meditated for over an hour. It felt amazing. I could really notice the dhukka when I wasn’t meditating, and this felt like coming home after a long time away.

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Very good point.

Lapsing in the precepts, sense restraint, and the overall development of a wholesome lifestyle (leaning towards renunciation) should be far more disconcerting than lack of time spent on the cushion. Always good to remember that sīlabbata-parāmāsa (holding to virtue and duty) applies to anything done out of mere routine, as a duty in itself, with the assumption that mere resolve in that sense is contributing towards their development:

“Ānanda, are all precepts and observances, lifestyles, and spiritual paths fruitful when taken as the essence?”

“This is no simple matter, sir.”

“Well then, Ānanda, break it down.”

“Take the case of someone who cultivates precepts and observances, a lifestyle, and a spiritual path, taking this as the essence. If unskillful qualities grow while skillful qualities decline, that’s not fruitful. However, if unskillful qualities decline while skillful qualities grow, that is fruitful.”

That’s what Ānanda said, and the teacher approved.
-AN 3.78

Keeping in mind AN 10.53, it is quite plausible that merely sitting everyday can induce either a standstill or a deterioration if the basis of the practice has not been purified and fortified. Couple that with:

Well then, Bahiya, purify the very starting point of wholesome states. And what is the starting point of wholesome states? Virtue that is well purified and view that is straight. Then, Bahiya, when your virtue is well purified and your view is straight, based upon virtue, established upon virtue, you should develop the four establishments of mindfulness.
(…)
When, Bahiya, based upon virtue, established upon virtue, you develop these four establishments of mindfulness in such a way, then whether night or day comes, you may expect only growth in wholesome states, not decline.” -SN 47.15

…and it seems clear that lifestyle is the real key to making use of time spent sitting, as opposed to sitting being the key to a wholesome lifestyle:

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I feel guilt is one of the most challenging moods. If there is really some being called Mara i think guilt is his main weapen to keep beings connected to the world, to a life of fulfilling duties, to a life of householder, to comform to rules of society, to justify suffering and unfreedom. The feeling one is always someone others possession. The family, the boss, the government, the friends, God. And how hard one works, how one is committed to doing good, it is never enough.

If one chooses not to overwork like collegues do, one feels guilt. Guilt is really challenging.

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Buddhist meditation is being aware of our thoughts in all postures with the “right view”, not only when sitting on the meditation cushion.