“A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.” ~ Anonymous.
Over the years I have been teaching meditation to students, I’ve noticed that the ones who keep practicing day after day all experience similar detours. These detours are inevitable to becoming balanced – fully integrated – and usually come in phases.
The first phase usually comes within the first couple of months of meditating. You’ve hit a peak and there’s nowhere to go but down. The “newness” of meditating every day has worn off and you don’t see or feel any real changes – just a heightened awareness of all your (what-if and to-do) thoughts. I call it the, “It’s not working anymore” phase and all my suggestions to just accept whatever happens and keep practicing no longer resonates.
Next comes the “Is it still working?” phase, where you know that the meditation is starting to work for you but you’re not 100% sure. There’s a rewiring of your internal software and you feel better equipped to deal with the every day stuff. Meditating is getting easier but there are times when you still struggle with sitting. You are, however, aware of this “boredom” and can just be yourself and sit with whatever experience.
Then there’s the, “It’s working. Let’s do this!” phase. This is obviously one where you’re excited to see your growth, you’re able to create space, you’re more available and in the moment and can really relate to what’s going on right now.
Now, if you commit to a daily practice – sitting for 20 minutes every day, twice a day – you will inevitably make great progress. However, you will undoubtedly need to embrace the ups and downs within every meditation – they’re not all going to be full of rainbows, unicorns, and bliss. This is just a natural part of learning any new skill.
For example, check this out. Earlier this week, I drew this graph below for a student – to help illustrate the ups and downs from one of my meditation sessions.
After the class I went to throw this away but I realized that within this one session it really illustrated all the necessary stages of the meditation process as a whole. Both have similar elements that include:
Dips & Detours – This happens when you are starting to drop old habits of the past but haven’t quite developed the new patterns. It often seems as if you are unraveling – getting worse despite your discipline to keep sitting everyday. These periods are necessary and often come right before a major breakthrough.
Plateaus – Man, I hit these all the time. It feels like you’re making little or no progress at all… but TRUST ME you are, on a subconscious level you are inching towards the next leap forward.
Rise Above – This is real growth. Awesome! A sharp or steady improvement when your mind, body, and spirit are fully integrated – a seamless whole. You’re seeing the fruits from cultivating your practice. Your discipline to meditating is paying off.
Keep in mind the dips and detours are a form of feedback on the state of your current reality- your becoming more aware. And peaks and valleys provide a continuing update telling you where you need to grow. When you rise above the dips it feels really cool… but even that means it’s time to set the bar higher. Of course your own graph will be different from this but it will most likely contain those three elements.
As of next week, I have been meditating every day for the last seven years. And, over those years I’ve had to learn to embrace and surrender to the success, plateaus and setbacks of my practice. It took me a while to see that they are a natural part of the learning process and in fact they are the major keys and guides that help us keep moving forward.
As you become familiar with your own detours, hopefully you won’t react to all the new road signs. You’ll be able to relax, become more reflective, more aware – and even start to enjoy every little up and down…every detour – and as you learn to relax, you learn better.