Practices like mindfulness and meditation are gaining popularity because a major chunk of the population is experiencing high stress living a fast-paced lifestyle.
One of the most common questions I get from people who are just beginning meditation is how much time it takes to see results?
The short answer is, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. But honestly, there is no defined timeline for this. If your goal is to relax and be stress-free, it might not take long. But if your goal is self-awareness and spiritual development, even one lifetime may not be enough.
There is no doubt that meditation provides a host of physical and mental health benefits. In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Be fit mentally to have good physical health.
Imagine a situation where someone has a perfect body with a chiseled face and six-pack abs but is also suffering from depression. Would you really call this person healthy?
Such cases are a reality in the entertainment industry, where we see celebrities and famous people with perfect bodies and amazing lifestyles. But even these people with all of their fame and wealth suffer from chronic stress, depression, and other psychological disorders.
On the other hand, if you aim for spiritual enlightenment, it’s a different matter altogether. Let’s explore this subject and understand it in greater depth.
How I Approach Meditation?
I started meditation because I was facing high stress, anxiety, and even depression at that time in my life. My main objective at that time was to improve my mental health. My mind tormented me with all kinds of negative thoughts, and I could not focus on my work.
I believe that is the case with most people. Most people resort to meditation as an antidote to anxiety and depression. As if it’s a magical pill that will make their problems go away in an instant.
It did not work for me initially, and I ended up being more frustrated than ever before. It made me think as to where I was going wrong.
I closed my eyes and kept repeating this question in my mind, and after few days, I got my answer. The problem was that I was approaching meditation in the same way I used to approach other things, like tasks and work.
I was creating an expectation of getting results fast with meditation, which left me with a bad feeling afterward. I was fighting with my mind and judging myself for failing to control my thoughts.
I was so hooked on the idea of attaining the deep meditation state of samadhi that I couldn’t see how my mind was dragging down this rabbit hole where my ego was rearing its ugly head in another form.
I was evaluating my meditation after every session. And I used to feel disappointed if it was not up to my expectation. I used to be frustrated that I could not control my mind while meditating.
Slowly with time, I started realizing that there is no need to control the mind. Observe its contents. Learning the skill to witness the thoughts as an impartial-non-judgemental observer reduces the intensity of afflicting emotions it carries.
By doing it, you’ll find yourself in a space where you’ll become highly aware of your thoughts, and they create your perceived reality.
Fighting with your mind and trying to control it is an already lost battle. The mind doesn’t like to be in control. It will resist, fight back, and will make your life miserable if you try to do that.
The idea here is not to stop the flow of thoughts through the mind. That is humanly not possible because our mind has been designed so that it cannot stop thoughts completely.
Remember that the mind is not our enemy. In fact, it can be our best friend. The only thing you need to do is to guide it gently. Any force or repression will not work.
The whole concept of mindfulness is to be aware of your thoughts. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad. Allow everything to flow through your mind.
Meditation Will Feel Uncomfortable In The Beginning
I’m not one of those who will tell you that it will be effortless and you’ll see results very soon. Honestly, It’s going to be a little uncomfortable in the beginning. Here’s why.
It is because you have been living your life unconsciously. You have been hiding deep wounds within your subconscious mind for many years altogether.
All of the troubling thoughts and emotions are resting deep within your subconscious mind. It’s like a volcano waiting to erupt.
You can’t suppress a volcano. Unfortunately, that’s what you have been trying to do all the time. And now the heat of that volcano is tormenting you. That’s the reason why you are experiencing so much stress and anxiety.
When you meditate, you start clearing your conscious mind of unwanted noise, which makes space for the thoughts and emotions buried deep within your subconscious mind to surface up to your conscious mind.
Suggested Reading: Why Painful Childhood Memories Pop Up During Meditation?
Initially, this will be an uncomfortable experience, but you will gain the strength to remain unaffected by these troubling thoughts and emotions with time.
My approach is to give my mind the flexibility and ability to entertain thoughts without discrimination. At this point, the concept of good vs. bad thoughts does not hold any meaning. My only effort is to keep myself aware at all times.
So How Long Does Meditation take to Work?
No hard and fast rule tells how much time it will take for your meditation to work. There are a lot of variables involved here. It depends on your intention, goals, and the intensity with which you meditate.
It has been seen that with most people, benefits like reduced stress and anxiety start to show with a few months of practice. Again, it will be different for different people. For some people, it may take few months; for others, it may take several years.
After a couple of months of practice, I saw some great changes within myself. I was more relaxed, the noise in my mind started reducing, and I could think clearly; my sleep quality improved significantly. Also, my anxiety levels were down, and I could better focus on my work.
It also helped me with physical health benefits. I was eating more healthy food, and I also lost nearly 50 pounds of body weight (check out my weight loss journey). The frequency of my migraine headaches reduced, and I had relief in other bone-related inflammations as well.
It’s altogether a different story if you are seeking spiritual enlightenment. It can take years, decades, or perhaps a full lifetime to achieve that kind of goal. Some of the great ‘yogis’ and sages in the eastern cultures have dedicated their whole life to practicing meditation.
One of the myths out there is that the more you meditate, the faster you see progress. I believe that is completely wrong. It doesn’t matter how long you meditate. What matters is how much awareness you can cultivate in your practice.
It’s not about the quantity but the quality or intensity. If you can hold yourself in high awareness for about 10 minutes, that’s more than enough. As a beginner, I recommend that you start with only 5 minutes every day.
In the end, whatever your goal may be, it’s important to be consistent with your meditation practice. You will see the changes for yourself as you progress. Don’t obsess too much about the results. And also, don’t compare your progress to that of other people.
Every one of us is different, and some of us require more healing than others. So time as a factor should not matter. As you progress in your meditation, a lot of things are going to change for you.
When I started mindfulness and meditation practices, I was only concerned about my physical and mental health benefits. I started noticing the benefits in a couple of months. I was calmer and more centered. After two years, I was in perfect health, and thereafter, I was naturally drawn to spiritual development.
I viewed meditation merely as a tool to help me with the ideas I had formed in my head.
I was unaware of the fact that it was my ego that was playing games. It kept telling me what’s good and what’s bad. I could see how it distorted my whole approach to spiritual development and how I was becoming delusional fantasizing about attaining enlightenment.
Over time my mind started becoming more and more clear. I started self-observation. Questions like ”Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “What is the truth?” started popping up, and I started my quest for mindfulness.
And as my consciousness started expanding, my ego started reducing. I started seeing things as they are. It intensified my eagerness to explore life and its meaning, and my desire for material possessions started diminishing.
At a certain point in time, I felt a feeling of bliss (for the lack of my knowledge to use the correct word, I’ll refer to it as bliss) overcoming all over me, and it hasn’t left ever since.
Yes, I do occasionally have bad days. I do get upset at times, and I still do experience some of those negative emotions many times. But the difference is that now I don’t allow them to overpower me. And as a result, I feel happier.
I have been meditating for the past few years, and I feel that my quest for achieving higher consciousness has just begun.