How to Check If Meditation Is Working For You
Quick ways to see if you’re moving forward
I know about scientific studies on meditation. I know about its positive effects.
But I often feel like the benefits mentioned are somewhere ‘out there’.
After months of meditation practice, I’ve realized one thing.
You can reason all you want about why meditation is the right thing to do. But until you feel the benefits, it can be hard to keep the habit going.
Regardless of how strong my faith is, the mind needs tangible results.
If you eat right and exercise, you’ll lose weight and/or build muscle — all the good stuff. There’s no doubt about that. Even still, many struggle to do it often. Why? Because they quit before they can see the results.
When it comes to meditation and spiritual progress, things become worse.
Measuring progress is not as easy as looking in the mirror or checking the weight scale.
Humans can’t diagnose their own illnesses accurately. Diagnosing something much subtler like our spiritual progress is all the more difficult.
So I use the worst tool for checking progress — comparing myself with others.
I start looking towards what others have experienced. It can turn out okay. But often it leads me to focus on the wrong things
The most common mistake is to associate your progress with spiritual powers, visions or voices in meditation, out of body experiences, and psychic abilities.
I’ve heard lots of experiences of people. Achieving breathlessness, seeing lights, feeling like their body is dissolving into space, hearing the sound of *Aum, *and so forth.
But over time, I learned these are nice-to-haves but not a true sign of progress. In business, we would call them vanity metrics.
Here are some things that I experienced which might be more relatable for you and a better judge of where you are.
You’re starting to detect subtle themes in your life
So often we think that life is not in our control. While it is true to an extent, you may not understand how much control you have over your reality.
When you start to meditate, you realize that a lot of what happens in your life stems from your own actions. Let me give you an example.
For a long time, I thought that people in my family were getting irritated without any fault of my own. The other person always seemed wrong.
After meditating, I started to catch this theme.
Through introspection, I realized it was me who was causing the chain of reactions. These reactions lead to the very situation that I despised. When I changed my own actions and attitudes, I immediately saw the outward change as well.
What are some themes in your life? Are you getting sick quite often? Is your car getting towed often? Do customers in your business complain a lot these days?
If you’re able to see such patterns without someone else pointing them out to you, then you’re doing good!
The next step is to figure out subtle beliefs or qualities that are causing these events. The seeds of every situation are in your own consciousness.
You’re learning to make higher choices in situations
One of the biggest advantages of meditation is the pause-and-plan response. We spend most of our time in the fight-or-flight response. We say things as they come to our mind.
But often the first thought is not the best one. When someone is rude to me, my first thought is,
“Well if he’s rude, why should I be so nice? I’ll give him a taste of his own medicine”
As you can guess, it’s not the best choice. And the sad part is, it’s often the common one.
With the pause and plan response, you can let these thoughts come and float away. Thus, you provide space for other reactions to come to mind.
A higher choice. One that breeds love, not hatred.
It’s all a matter of seconds or even microseconds. But those tiny moments can completely flip the direction of the situation.
Let all those who have ears to hear listen. For I tell you this: at the critical juncture in all human relationships, there is only one question: “What would Love do now?” No other question is relevant, no other question is meaningful, no other question has any importance to your soul — Conversations with God, Book 1
Think about what would Love do in a situation. Take a few seconds, and make the higher choice.
Your sleep is going through some changes
This might not be a common sign or effect. But I’ve noticed my sleep to be much deeper.
I measure my sleep stats using Fitbit Versa Lite. As I improved my meditation practice (length and depth), I found myself sleeping better.
Some days, I also felt my sleep quota reduce. I woke up earlier than usual, feeling almost as fresh and energetic.
Another effect is having vivid dreams. I rarely had dreams earlier. But now, they’ve increased and become quite clear. It almost seems that it’s real, that I’m awake.
Does this happen with you? Or am I alone?
I also practice a short mindfulness routine before sleeping. I lie on my back and relax all my body parts. From the toe to the head. I then take 10–20 deep breaths (about 10 seconds of inhalation and exhalation at least).
Once I am relaxed enough, I try to follow the breath for some time. This helps calm the otherwise stormy mind and lets me fall asleep faster.
You’re starting to find joy inside
Real joy is inside. Outer things that give joy or pseudo-joy are often followed by a dip in happiness. Your general life satisfaction is indirectly related to how distracted you are.
Watching a movie gives you happiness but is followed by a sense of wasting time and procrastinating. Buying things gives you happiness but your needs never end, leaving you unsatisfied.
As you meditate more, you pull your energies away from all the pleasures that the world has to offer. Because you realize that they are transient.
The only persistent, ever-lasting joy that we all seek is inside. When you experience this, you’ll find yourself happier and sweeter in all aspects.
You’re able to hold different things in perspective without getting stressed
I’m not talking about multi-tasking here. Rather it’s about seeing the bigger picture and being able to zoom out.
Often we worry about small things in life which become a major source of stress. Using meditation you can de-excite the nervous system. This leads to calmness and better cognitive functioning.
An excited nervous system also puts you back into the fight-or-flight response we spoke about earlier.
Meditation thus helps you to get a new perspective on things. You expand your cognitive ability to take in more input and connect dots in a way that most people cannot think of.
You start to understand and question the nature of reality
As you meditate more, you uncover a whole new world inside. It seems as if the world is a stage and someone gave you entry to the backstage — the true reality.
At this point, you start to question the nature of reality itself. I certainly did.
The world is an illusion — Maya, as we call it in India. It is a world of ups and downs, delusion, and duality.
The knowledge of Maya is the root of deep peace. You’re able to see things in a different light. You realize that as long as you’re living in this world, there will be ups and downs. Where there is love, there will be fear and attachment. Where there’s happiness, there will be sadness.
The only place where everything merges into The Eternal Reality is inside you.
Thus you’re not affected by what happens around you (at least not as much as before). What could set you on fire before, means nothing to you now. The successes and obstacles are a part of life that will go on until death.
You start to develop a sense of even-mindedness in all situations — much like a stoic.
You’re conscious enough to get away from the emotional drama that takes you away from inner peace
Once you experience the inner peace that comes through meditation. You wouldn’t like to be around people who rob you of it.
During the initial stages of spiritual growth, you’re not strong enough to resist the forces of delusion that pull you down. You are susceptible to negative influences that can take you off your path.
Mixing with negative, complaining, angry, irritated, or similar people will make you feel the same emotions.
You’ll likely resist such emotions since you know life can be much better.
You experience moments (perhaps hours or days) of calmness where nothing outside can affect you
I’m not talking about peacefulness.
Peace and calmness are different.
Peace is what you experience during meditation. It’s a temporary experience that lifts the weight of problems off your chest.
Calmness lasts longer and is dynamic. It is the ability to experience the same peace during all situations in life. It’s the ultimate power to overcome obstacles.
Good things in life excite us. Bad things create stress. Almost all things create restlessness of some sort.
This restlessness clouds our judgment and inhibits good decision-making. Deep inner calmness is your best friend through all situations in life.
As your attachment to your ego weakens, you start to realize that it’s not about you.
You start to help others. You stop thinking about what you’ll get. Instead, you think about what you can give.
I’ve come to realize that this inner reality manifests itself in your life sooner or later. The more you give, the more you get.
Whenever I’ve done things for myself, I’ve neither felt good nor have I had real success. But when I think about how I can provide value and help my readers, I seem to produce better work. And the results follow.
You have fewer desires. Preferences, yes. Desires and needs, maybe not so much
He who forsakes desires for lesser enjoyments, unattached to sense objects, devoid of the consciousness of ‘me and mine,’ receives the lasting joy of God-peace — Krishna, Bhagvad Gita
Desires keep our energy focused away from God. By desiring something we say, “I’ll be happy when I have X.” Well, if you’re not happy in the process, how are you going to get whatever you want? And even when you get there, you’ll find that the happiness gained is transient.
Then you’ll have another desire.
This cycle continues for lifetimes until we consciously break it.
When you meditate and find happiness within, then you’re less and less affected by the outcome of what happens without. Your desires reduce.
You may still have preferences. But you stop placing conditions on your happiness.
Unplugging yourself from those desires is what true freedom is about. You’re not really free until you untie the ropes from your desires to focus on what’s important.
I’ve listed some benefits of meditation that I’ve experienced after meditating for almost 10 months. You can use them as anchors to see where you’re at.
Though they may seem utopian, they’re achievable.
You may or may not relate to all of them. Don’t stress out about it. Much of the time spent worrying about whether you’re there yet can be spent in advancing further still.
As the Bible says, “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.”
God comes “like a thief in the night.”
Keep digging without seeing how far you’ve come. One day, you’ll achieve what all of us are here to achieve — Self-Realization.
I’d love to hear some of the benefits that you’ve observed or signs that you use to measure your progress. Let me know down in the comments 😃
I hope you enjoyed reading the article and found it valuable. If you have any feedback, please reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter!
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