Starting a meditation practice brings about profound inner changes — calmness, silence, purpose and equanimity — but many of these take place quietly over an extended period of time.
So how do you measure progress in meditation? Here are six unexpected but tangible signs you are on the right path:
1. Sleep improvement
Meditation stills the ever-fluctuating thought waves. As a result, the mind is less scattered and distracted and will switch off quickly. Dreams — which are an offshoot of a restless, active mind — also reduce. You will sleep deeper and longer.
Before I began meditating, I would have trouble falling asleep on nights before big events, like an important presentation at work or a book launch. I'd also have trouble falling back to sleep if I awoke in the middle of the night. But now, I have a deep, dreamless, restful sleep almost always — even with a 2-month-old baby girl! I wake up when she cries in the middle of the night, feed her and then fall back to sleep immediately as if completely uninterrupted.
2. Music tastes have changed
With thoughts becoming less agitated, violent, abrasive music might feel more jarring. I can't bear to listen to some of the rap music I enjoyed years ago, like Eminem. The same goes for movies and other forms of entertainment — violent ideas feel harsher than ever before.
3. Doing less = seeing more
As you gain more joy in just sitting still and focusing within, the frenzied urge to see and do more starts to quieten. The next time you go on a business trip to Paris for instance, you might not feel that urge to rush and see every cathedral and museum in the guidebook, cramming in as much as you can.
Strolling quietly, meditating in a beautiful church or even in a hotel room feels more pleasant and is equally satisfying.
4. Concentration has improved
You may start noticing this in subtle ways. For me, the ability to calculate numbers in my head at work became much faster. I also began to pay better attention to my colleagues, versus dismissing them quickly to get back to my mental to-do list.
5. Superficial talk feels distasteful
Talk of houses being bought, goods being sold, the usual "did you try X or Y restaurant?", "are you following that new reality show?", feels gratingly superficial. Meditation stirs something deep within to give you a glimpse of an infinite truth. The finite, repetitive concerns of the world begin to feel increasingly shallow.
6. A holistic mindset emerges
You're not necessarily a tree-hugging hippie, yet you understand what all the fuss about recycling, sustainability and vegetarian food is all about. And if that wasn't enough, words like "consciousness" and "mind-body connection" enter your lexicon.
Photo courtesy of the author