We practice meditation in the end not to become a great meditator but to have a different life. As we deepen the skills of concentration, mindfulness and lovingkindness and compassion, we find that we have less stress, more fulfillment, more insight, and vastly more happiness. We transform our lives.
We might well, though, have a tendency to continually evaluate our practice on the basis of what happens in the 10 or 15 or twenty minutes we dedicate to formal meditation each day. Not only will that prevent us from actually practicing, because what we are primarily doing is evaluating, it will also be misleading.
I always suggest to people that if they want to assess whether or not meditation is bringing them any benefit, to look at their lives. How are you speaking to yourself if you’ve made a mistake? How distracted or present are you meeting a stranger? Do you find yourself more generous, more balanced? That’s what really matters.
In fact, even before we see those changes in ourselves, others might see them in us. Someone just came up to me at a class the other day and said, “I was going to stop meditating because I thought I wasn’t getting anything out of it. Then my kids came to me and said, ‘Please don’t stop. You’re much better. Not as angry, more open.’”
So it takes a kind of surrender, like “I’m going to try this for …(some reasonable, realistic period of time…) and then figure out if I want to continue.” I read a recent neuroscientific study that suggested a minimum of 10 minutes a day for 2 months to establish changes from meditation. It could be that, it needs to be what works for you. But from the beginning of our practice, to the very end, the most important thing is actually doing it.