This is one of my favourite quotes regarding meditation and progress in meditation.
“Don’t doubt the value of meditation or underestimate your abilities. Be content with whatever progress you make because it reflects a part of the truth you are seeking. As such, it is something you can rely on”
Mae Chee Kaew
I like this quote very much as I often hear people giving themselves a hard time about whether or not they are making progress in meditation. I think that just showing up for your meditation on a regular basis and maintaining the motivation is great progress. For some people, especially in the beginning, they often find it difficult to keep their meditation practice going and may give up due to their chattering mind along with doubts about if they are “doing it right” and if they will ever be able to do it. I think to be able to get past these first stages of doubt and questioning without giving up is good progress to start with.
For me, the practice of meditation has been a liberating but often challenging journey. My progress over the last 20 years of practising has been gradual, and I am pretty sure will remain on-going. I started meditating at just 15 years old and never really thought about IF I was progressing in meditation, but I did notice that I was progressing in life BECAUSE of meditation. Before I began meditating I was withdrawn and anxious. I couldn’t focus on my school work and my parents and teachers were concerned for my well-being and school grades. Within just a few months of practising meditation twice a day, I became more confident, happier and my memory and ability to focus improved. My exam grades surpassed any of my teacher’s expectations. So this was great progress. At the time I was practising mantra meditation and I found this kept me very focused.
Some years later, I began to practice mindfulness meditation techniques and I found this to be a very different experience. To turn the attention within and observe without the focus of a mantra did not come as easy to me. I persisted and found that as I continued with the mindfulness techniques that I experienced an expanded awareness that allowed me to step back and see things from a different perspective. I began to notice repetitive patterns in my behaviour which were no longer serving me and what situation or way of thinking had caused them in the first place. I was then able to make changes in my behaviour, way of thinking and my lifestyle which enhanced my well-being and happiness. I see this as being progress in meditation.
I have also found that I have made progress in meditation by practising techniques such as loving-kindness meditation and forgiveness meditations. Often in the beginning, I would find it hard to be loving, kind and forgiving towards myself during those meditations. It was always easier to project loving-kindness towards others. However, with continuing practice over time, I have found that I have managed to cultivate loving-kindness towards myself. I am much more accepting and compassionate towards myself in meditation and in general. I feel as I have maintained my meditation practice over the years it has given me the ability to cope with life’s various challenges. Life is still full of up’s and down’s. Some days my meditation experience is full of feelings of bliss and wonder. On other days it might not feel that great at all, but I have learnt to accept the experience as it is without judgment or criticism and I have noticed that this is also becoming how I respond to life in general. I accept whatever is happening in my life without judgment and flow with it. I have found that if I allow life to flow the way I allow my meditation practice to, that it all just works out.
I think progress in meditation is when it moves beyond the meditation cushion into the rest of your daily activities and you are aware of experiencing life as being more enjoyable.