Don't Give Up: Seeing Progress in Your Meditation Practice
Chances are good that if you are living in a developed part of the world the concept of success is spread throughout your entire life. Whatever you endeavor to do, you want to be the best. You are told to be the best. It's not just a personality trait, it's engrained in you, mainly through media and advertising. It's even possible that if you have just started meditating, this need to be the successful has made its way into your practice. It could actually be the reason you are frustrated with learning. If you are having trouble meditating, or you're thinking of giving up, you might want to think about a new approach. Consider this.
How would feel about anything if you knew you could not fail? There would be no pressure, right? Whatever step you took would be the right one. Unfortunately, that is not a common belief in many developed countries. In those parts of the world you are constantly pushed to be the best; to get a better position at work, a higher raise, a better score, a better grade. You are constantly being told that you need to find a way to "level up", to be better than those around you.
Those beliefs are absent in meditation, and that is why so many people struggle with developing a practice; they want to grade their sessions, but there is no measurement for success. Meditation is like taking a shower. When you hop in the tub you don't look to take the best shower ever, you simply look to get clean, relax or whatever. You can't take a shower wrong. The same is true for meditation. If you set time aside to do it, then you are successful.
Progressing in Your Meditation Practice
The nature of meditation is non-judgmental, but if you need some ways to feel like you are progressing, then try these:
Length of Session
Meditation sessions can be as long or as short as you need them to be. However, many people feel if they can't meditate for at least 20 or 30 minutes, then they have failed. That's not true. if you are new to meditating, start off by simply sitting still for one moment, focusing on your breath. That's it, just one minute. Then, once that has become easier, progress to two minutes. There is no goal time you are aiming for. You simply look to lengthen your sessions to whatever time frame you decide.
Length of Focus
The biggest challenge for new meditators is keeping their mind from wandering. The best start to remedying this is to understand that your mind will wander, and that's okay. It's normal. However, you can gauge your success with this by counting your breaths. In order to determine focus, simply count your breaths. Count, and recognize how many breaths you were able to tally before your mind begins to wander. When it does, bring your focus back to your breath and begin counting again. You can find accomplishment by beating the number of breaths you counted before your mind wandered the last time. Even if you count one breath before your thoughts stray, simply set the intention of making it to two the next time. That is an improvement. Start small and notice all advances, even the smaller ones.
Days in a Row
This one is quite simple. For a meditation practice to be most beneficial, it will serve you to have at least one session a day. to gauge your progress, simply chart the number of days in a row you are able to practice. If you break the streak, simply start over and try for at least one more day better than your previous streak. This may seem simple, but it can't be understated. The greatest success, regardless of how your sessions go, is in diligently making time each day.
These three suggestions are not mandatory. They are simply a way of helping a newcomer fuel their desire to keep practicing. Eventually, as you spend more time meditating, you will come to understand that there is no best way to practice. Better still, you will realize that regardless of how your sessions go, as long as you take time to further you sessions, the more you will grow.