Aspect 4: Change
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It just seems so difficult!"
"Don’t worry it will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!"
"Don’t worry it will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
Quite a good meditation joke but in reality, so very true! Below is a chart displaying a person’s typical progression over time when they meditate regularly.
There will be times of progress, accompanied by times of plateauing when there doesn’t seem to be much headway and of course there will be times when nothing appears to be going well, seemingly getting worse. These responses to meditation are true for virtually everybody. It’s over a period of time that people can reflect and see that the overall progression is towards stronger and stronger health and well-being despite the down times and the periods of little movement.
Some people when beginning hope for or expect some earth-shattering change to occur, the vast amount of the time it just isn’t like that. Rather it is a drip, drip effect of change only noticeable over time. As described in other sections of this website many of the changes within are happening at a molecular level; minute by minute drop, so small we could never sense it. The thing to remember is that if you are practicing the change is happening. One of the first changes people often notice is that sleep patterns which had been problematic improve. Another is that when driving they stop reacting to other people’s road rage or their own road rage symptoms become less intense.
In the late 1980’s when I took some courses at Warwick Hospital the leader of the counselling course made a point that has always stuck with me. He produced two diagrams much like the ones below. Basically, he described how when working with someone over time the traits in the left-hand diagram exerted less and less effect upon them, even disappearing. While those in the right-hand diagram never disappeared and usually became stronger. If that is the type of progression that you are looking for then meditation is for you.
Which of these do you feel applies to you?
Even though I’ve wanted to I find it hard to change.
I’ve always enjoyed trying new things.
I find it hard to relax and switch off.
I like to persevere with something.
I enjoy learning from others.
I don’t find it easy to trust ideas I’m not used to.
Change not only takes time, as we will see in the next section there are natural internal systems which inhibit our ability to change, for very good evolutionary reasons. This is why in the classes we acknowledge and respect the courage and determination, focus and patience, which people display in order to meditate successfully.