Of the almost 5 years of meditating daily, I have noticed significant differences in myself not only ‘off the pillow,’ but also while sitting. As we form an everyday practice, our brains begin recruiting cells to form new pathways, helping us to develop positive habits and behaviors. We can witness these physiological changes even while meditating. Below are 7 signs during meditation that help us to know that our practice is working.
1. You let go of your beginner support tools. When we first begin meditating, we may require support in sitting, getting into a meditative state, focusing on our breath, and feeling calmer. As we grow consistent in our practice, we will find that we begin to naturally modify or completely let go of these initial aids. Most recently, I have found that I no longer require lighting incense or chanting mantras to help me get into a meditative frame of mind. I can sit down and go into meditation almost immediately, but it didn’t start happening until after a daily practice of over 2 years. Sometimes it’s nice to have the extra stuff, but you will find that it is no longer necessary to your practice.
2. When thoughts arise they are more centered on the present, than the past or future. During my private sessions with clients who have maintained a practice for a significant amount of time, I ask them about the quality of their thoughts when they do arise during meditation. Without fail the majority of them will say that they have noticed the feelings of regret, anger, and anxiety slowly lose prominence. This is because meditation helps us work through the barriers we have created in our mind due to past experiences. We work towards letting go of anything that’s been preventing us from growing and moving forward. So, when your mind wanders, it’s not so much about marinating in blocked emotions, but processing recent events.
3. You stop comparing your meditations. In the beginning it is very easy to evaluate our meditations after each sit. We may think, yesterday I had a great meditation, today, not so much. Then, we tell ourselves, maybe this isn’t working. After a while though, we begin to realize that each meditation holds power in it. Did you know that each time you sit to meditate it goes into creating long-term effects? So, that if you meditated consistently for 6 months, but then let go of the practice for 2 years, and started meditating again, that you would just be picking back up from your practice 2 years ago. Think of it as an investment you make into your bank account. Each time you make a deposit, it’s going towards the larger goal.
4. You start meditating throughout the day. This has been one of the most fascinating developments in my own meditation practice. At random times in the day I will find myself going into a meditative state, sometimes not even realizing I am doing it. I will start following my breath in and out or holding in my mind’s eye my chosen diety. You will notice that you don’t have to be sitting in front of your altar to go into a meditative flow. Have you ever seen people randomly get into yoga poses, while waiting in line or at the airport? Naturally we want to move our bodies into poses where it feels good. We do the same for our minds. Since we have trained our minds during our meditation practices to focus and have found peace in it, we organically begin doing it at other times.
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5. You stop judging yourself. One of the most common ways we discourage ourselves from maintaining a meditation practice comes from our negative self-talk. As you form a consistent practice, you will become an expert at letting thoughts come and go, instead of holding on to them and allowing them to create barriers for you. You will recognize your impatience in wanting to ‘get this over with’ and instead slow down. The truth of the matter is that everyone has thoughts drifting in and out of their minds during meditation. Most people feel like they can’t meditate because there are other more important things they could be doing. However, once you form a regular practice and notice the gains, you will stop trying to talk yourself out of meditating.
6. You start prioritizing your practice. There are many excuses we create for not meditating. In the beginning, you may tell yourself, I will do it tomorrow. The next day comes and you tell yourself the same thing. Many days go by and you have yet to meditate. It will be challenging at first to make time for sitting. As you do though, automatically you will make room for it in your day. The benefits far outweigh the initial struggles, so keep at it. You will get to a point where it becomes part of your everyday routine, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower, and you won’t have to even think twice about it.
7. Increased focus during meditation. As time goes on, it becomes easier to focus on your given meditation tool, whether it be the breath, mantra, or an object. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to have a regular practice. The 8 Limbs of Yoga or Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and numerous other Vedic texts talk about just this- You first have to be able to hold your concentration on your given meditation tool (dharana) before you can get into the flow of keeping it there (dhyana), which is the actual meditation part. In order to get to this stage, you have to have a daily practice.
There is no doubt that a consistent and patient meditation practice will create life-transforming results. As you reflect on your own practice, what are some changes you have already noticed in yourself while meditating?