Whether you’ve been meditating for a week or years, having a mindset of growth is key to your practice. There will be days when meditation is the easiest thing in the world, and others when focusing your mind feels like lifting a car above your head. Both ends of the spectrum are an important part of your development as a meditator. However, you will have days when growth feels impossible. Here are some things to keep in mind as you continue with your meditation practice.
Growth is not linear
When we think about growth we might picture a graph with a straight line shooting up to the right. Those times of growth can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, and hopefully they reinforce that you’re on the right path with your meditation.
However, as we improve, our situations often become more challenging. This is the nature of anything we do as humans. In kindergarten our teachers put out blocks and toys and encouraged us to play. While that might feel fun and challenging enough at 5, we won’t have the same challenge when we get to high school. At that point, not only do kindergarten activities feel easy, they also feel boring and unrewarding.
All around us we can see examples of nature moving forward and growing. We are part of that cycle. Once you feel good about your progress, you may suddenly see a test from the universe that challenges the skills you’ve learned. This isn’t a negative thing—it’s a chance to see how far you’ve come and maybe learn something new.
At those times, it may feel like you’re going backwards, but you’re simply learning at a new level. Try to embrace it!
Growth looks different for everybody
While some meditators aim to do long retreats or begin working as spiritual leaders, other meditators are just hoping to find 15 minutes a day to sit between school, work and other priorities. Both of these journeys are equally valid and important. As you progress in your practice, try not to compare where you are to anybody else, because you’re likely not focusing on the same goals.
It can be hard not to feel like we should be further along, and sometimes it helps to look back at where you started to really understand how far you’ve come.
Are there situations where you feel calm, where you used to have more anxiety?
Do you understand your emotions better than you used to?
Have you been interacting with yourself, or others, in healthier ways?
Differences can be subtle, but they are still important. Meditation is a very private and internal practice, and you might be the only person in your life who is seeing the changes that you’re making, but that is still a very good reason to be proud of yourself and celebrate the growth you’ve made.
Sometimes, growth isn’t the goal
We live in a world that is looking for growth everywhere. If your meditation practice is the one place where you’re not focusing on “going” anywhere, then that is incredibly special too. Focus on your heart and your mind and let your meditation be a place to be present with what’s already here.