How Do We Know if Our #Meditation Practice is “Working”?
So many of us learn to meditate and then wonder: how we are supposed to be able to discern the effects of our practice?
More specifically, how can we tell if we are doing it correctly? Or, how do we know if we are meditating for enough time each day? How do we know whether we have the “right” practices and if these the ones we ought to continue doing?
Many of my Tibetan Buddhist meditation teachers have given talks in which these and similar questions arise. The teachers’ responses are usually to turn it around and ask us practitioners to consider these simple “measures” of our practice’s effectiveness:
- Am I more patient?
- Am I angry less often?
- Does compassion arise in me more often and spontaneously?
- Am I kinder more often and more easily?
Then, if we are studying with a meditation teacher, we are asked to contemplate these questions:
- Do I have strong faith in my heart in my teacher and in the dharma?
- Does my teacher come to my mind spontaneously while I am in a sleep state, while dreaming and/or in times of crisis?
- Do I have less hope and less fear?
- Do I experience clarity more of the time?
How are YOU doing, by these measures, with your meditation practice? If the answer to most of these questions is “no,” please find a qualified meditation teacher to discuss your practice with you and get you on the right track.
Maybe you need to meditate more time per day or keep your practice time and session length more consistent. Possibly, you need to “mix it up,” change what you’re doing. Get up and walk or go sit outside, change your shrine or altar around.
If you’re chanting or visualizing, maybe you need to return to calm abiding (shamatha). If you’re unfocused, maybe vipassana or mindfulness practices are better for you for a while.
There are over 80,000 methods of meditation and practice for “taming the mind.” One or more of them is right for everyone at some point, but many of us need to change our practices throughout our lifetimes and changing circumstances.
We need a qualified meditation teacher, someone we can trust to guide our practice and help us keep it fresh and effective. Books and groups are great and support our practice, but nothing takes the place of having a spiritual guide.
It is said that the spiritual teacher that fits us best has the key to open our hearts. Merely to hear the teacher’s name or see his/her face, even in a photo, can have a profound effect. I hope you can find the right one for you.
Here is mine: Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed).
May all beings benefit. May he live long and flourish. May all practitioners be so fortunate as to find your living teachers and be able to study under their guidance.
How to choose a spiritual teacher, what kind to select, and how to know if your relationship is worthwhile and effective as well as healthy? Read my review, then get the excellent, comprehensive book by Alexander Berzin, Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship, on Buddhist Door, from last fall (2015): http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/wise-teacher-wise-student-tibetan-approaches-h