What Every Meditator Needs to Know About Progress
There are several things you need to know about how meditation progress results from using one or more meditation techniques and seriously cultivating.
1. For some people progress comes quick, and for others it comes slow. It's all a function of present effort and past karma, meaning cultivation efforts from past lives. People who cultivated a lot in previous lives have a tendency to regain their proficiency quickly when and if they choose to practice again. So don't be jealous of others. You can only get what you deserve, and no more. Work hard and you'll get the same because Tao is barred to no one -- we all have the same original nature.
2. Early spiritual progress usually seems easier achieved than later cultivation progress, whose achievement is sometimes really slow for even the tiniest increase. The reason is simple. It's a matter of perspective. If you have one penny and I give you another, that's double the amount you had -- you experience a 100% increase in funds and you're ecstatic because you notice it. However, if you already have one dollar, that penny improvement is just a 1% improvement, so you don't notice it even though you improve. Thus, early gains may tend to seem bigger simply because of the laws of proportion and perspective. You are progressing nonetheless, so persevere with your cultivation practice.
3. Most people reach a point in the cultivation where it seems as if they are retrogressing. What happens is that their mind FINALLY becomes clear and they can FINALLY notice their thoughts for the first time. Noticing them, they see they have so many thoughts (including some really BAD ones!) and get discouraged or depressed. Believe me, this happens all the time when people really and truly start to make the REAL progress.
This isn't retrogressing. This is a step upwards in progress that depresses people because of misinterpretation. People tend to get confused on the cultivation trail which is why it's good to have a good master.
The situation is like a glass of muddy water. The glass may look like a solid brown color until you stop shaking the glass, and the dust and dirt particles begin to settle. Only after they begin to settle can you start to see the individual particles for the first time. Now you can see all the individual particles of pollution.
The same goes for awareness. Only when you makes progress in stilling your mind, through the principles of cessation and contemplation practice, can you begin to be aware of your individual thoughts. Before that it's hard to notice your thoughts at all. Of course when you notice them you begin to see why spiritual teachers say we have to change and become more virtuous!
The point is, when this starts to happen you should pat yourself on your back, not feel guilty because of all the bad thoughts you see. After all, it's not the thoughts that arise which is wrong, it's acting on them or holding onto them with ill intent that's the trouble.
Forget about all that. Instead just detach from your thoughts and then you're on the road to Zen awareness. Congratulations!
4. One of the first things people notice on the spiritual path is that they can feel the chi in their bodies. What a shocker that is for most people. Guess what? It only proves that there is such a thing as chi, and that all those books -- from all those spiritual schools -- might be right. Hmmm, wouldn't that be interesting.
Now if those books say the path of cultivation progress is ABCDEFGHIJKL... and you personally experience ABCD, I would keep an open mind to the possibility that EFGHIJKLMN... might really be real events, and not science fiction or superstition. So if those events or phenomena include chakras opening, yang or yin shen phenomena and the like, keep an open mind that they are right around the corner. Follow Shakyamuni Buddha who said, "Don't believe me. Just cultivate for yourself and see that what I've said is true. If you do, then ABCDEFG... will happen."
It's called proof by further personal experience. Why rest on faith when you can have proof? Keep on meditating partner!
5. The more you cultivate and the better you get, the more circumstances will arise to try and stop you. The phone will ring, troubles will arise from everywhere, everything will happen to try and divert you from the path.
If you can put as much energy into cultivation as most people put into their career or sports or even marriage, you won't get distracted from these frictional obstructions that arise dissuade you ... and they are sure to arise since cultivation means you are changing your fortune, and friction is an inevitable result of that. Friction actually means you're succeeding at something because you are bumping up against your previous limitations.
So take faith and double up when the world tries to defeat you, for that's the purpose and teaching of cultivation, which is to transform the world for the better.
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