Starting a meditation practice brings about profound inner changes—calmness, silence, purpose, equanimity—but many of these take place quietly over a 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 improves
Meditation stills the fluctuating thought waves. As a result, the mind is less scattered and distracted and switches off quickly. Dreams—which are an offshoot of a restless, active mind—also reduce. You sleep deeper and longer. Before I began meditating, I would have trouble falling asleep on nights before big events eg, an important presentation at work or a book launch. I’d also have trouble falling back to sleep if I awoke in the middle. Now, I have a deep, dreamless, restful sleep almost always–even with a two month old baby girl! I wake up when she cries in the middle of the night, feed her, and fall back to sleep immediately as if completely uninterrupted.
2. Music tastes change
With thoughts becoming less agitated, violent, agitating music feels more jarring. For instance, I find it difficult to listen to Eminem now even though I enjoyed his lyrics just a couple of years ago. Same with movies and other entertainment that are too harsh or violent.
3. Beautiful sights lose their pull.
As one gets more and more joy in just sitting still and focusing within, the frenzied urge to see more and do more quietens. The next time you go on a business trip to Paris, you won’t feel the urge to rush and see every cathedral, every museum in the guidebook. Strolling quietly through the streets, meditating in a church or even in a hotel room feels more pleasant than climbing up a hill to see yet another architectural wonder.
4. Concentration Improves.
You may notice it in subtle but tangible ways. For instance, my ability to calculate numbers in my head became faster than ever at work. I also began paying more attention to my colleagues versus dismissing them quickly to attack the next item in my mental To-do list. Needless to say, being more present changes your life in wonderful ways. The quality of one’s work improves, relationships deepen and more positive coincidences occur.
5. Worldly talk feels more hollow.
Talk of houses being bought, goods being sold, the usual “did you try X or Y restaurant?”, “are you following Oscar Pistorius’s trial?” etc. feels gratingly superficial. Meditation stirs something deep within giving a glimpse of an infinite truth. The finite, repetitive concerns of the world feel increasingly shallow. It’s all for the good though. One spends time more thoughtfully as a result.
6. You become more “holistic”
Not quite a tree-hugging hippie yet but suddenly, you can understand what all the fuss about recycling, sustainability and vegetarian food was all about. And if that wasn’t enough, words like “consciousness” and “mind-body connection” enter your lexicon.
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