Almost anyone who has practiced some form of physical (hatha) yoga will attest that after an hour on the mat, you usually feel better than when you began. However, those who try yoga meditation might not have the same experience from their time on the cushion – at first. If you are like most people beginning a meditation practice, all manner of discomfort and distraction will show up when you stop and try to get still.
And this is why trust is required. Meditation does not give instant gratification. And if you go into it with this expectation, you will surely be disappointed. It is an endeavor that gets better over time and results show up in subtle ways. Over time, however, if you continue to practice with dedication, concentration and intention, big benefits will arrive and your life will be forever changed for the good.
Paramahansa Yogananda, master teacher of yoga meditation, points out that most people give up on meditation too soon. This is why they do not receive results from the practice. Think of this analogy. You are sitting by a placid lake and you throw in a rock. Ripples radiate and it takes time for the stillness of the water to return. Your innate peaceful consciousness is that placid lake, but you are constantly throwing rocks of disturbance into it through the sensory experiences of life. So, when you approach meditation and ask the mind and the body to get quiet, it takes a while for the ripples of sensation and thought to settle. The Yoga SutrasYoga Sutras call this yoga chitta vritti nirodha restraining the fluctuations of the mind, so that pure awareness or consciousness can return (Learn more about how to quiet the mind here.). Because the ego-centered, individualized consciousness does not want to let go of being in charge, these fluctuations take more than minutes, hours or days to quiet down. It can take months of determined focus to find the tranquil place of your true nature again. TRUST. Inner peace will come and it is worth the journey! Even one moment of this peace brings such relief from the stressors of life. And it leaves an indelible impression of assurance that a profound goodness lies within and around you. Having experienced this sweetness of true Self, the habit of meditation begins to form and each time you sit you glean more and more inner equanimity and joy.
The Yoga Sutras also give a technique to facilitate this journey. The technique of cultivating single-pointed focus on one aspect of the Divine in whatever way you perceive it is called dharana. It is essential to retraining the mind to move into the necessary stillness of meditation. As a point of focus, you could pay attention to your breath because the Divine is within and the Source of each breath we take. Or you could focus on an element of nature such as light that illumines the world around you and gently seek the point of light within at the third eye. If you are religious, you could focus on a teacher like Jesus or Krishna and dwell on the spiritual qualities they exemplify.
For most people, whatever focus they choose, it will burn strong for a few seconds like the last blaze of a sunset and then it is gone, replaced by daily thoughts. Don’t worry. This is normal. Just return to trust and refocus on what you have chosen. Concentration muscles are not built in one day. And just like the sunset that will come again tomorrow, you will have another opportunity tomorrow to sit and practice. The key is to show up with undaunted enthusiasm and let go of the desire to accomplish anything in meditation. If you let go of any expectation of results, then you can simply experience the moment (Learn more about why you shouldn't judge your meditation practice here.). You can trust that it is enough and that by simply showing up to your meditation practice, benefits are accruing and will be felt over time.
Finally, if you can come to meditation with the intention of giving rather than getting, then it becomes even sweeter. Offer your attention and devotion to something greater than yourself. With consistent, sincere practice you will find the ego mind getting quieter and struggling less with every turn of life that doesn’t go your way. As you learn to trust your meditation practice, you will also trust what life is bringing you and abide in peace.