After a person has been meditating for some time, it’s important that he or she evaluate how the practice is developing. Is it working? Does it need adjustment? Is it the right practice to be doing? Can it be improved? Some of this evaluation can be done on one’s own, some with a teacher or with friends.
Taking a step back to assess our meditation shouldn’t be seen as a difficult task. We are evaluators by nature. We evaluate all the time, even if subconsciously. We decide what clothes to wear after considering a number of factors, not least of all the weather. An activity as simple as going for a walk requires a variety of considerations: How far will I walk? Does the walk require preparation? Do I need to pace myself if it is a long walk? What is the best route? Which are the best shoes?
In the same way, we can evaluate our practice. This should be done in a balanced way: not too little and not too much. Sometimes we don’t evaluate enough—maybe because of complacency, or excessive reliance on faith in the practice, or teachings that downplay the role of intelligent reflection. At other times, we might overevaluate and tie ourselves up in knots. Overevaluating can undermine our progress, like the farmer who pulls out a corn seedling to see if it’s growing yet. Imagine trying to learn to ride a bike while obsessing, “Am I doing this right? How do I look?” We may be looking for approval when we should be looking for balance, or expecting perfection when what is needed is lots of repeated practice.
Below is a useful list that can serve as a guide for evaluating your practice. While no two practitioners are exactly alike, these are general areas you can check that will give you a good idea where you are.
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