How to Know If Meditation is Working: A Practical Guide 

Have you ever found yourself sitting in stillness, eyes closed, attempting to find peace, and your mind wonders, “Is this meditation thing working?” You’re not alone! Figuring out if meditation is making a difference can be a bit tricky. In this post, we’ll explore the subtle yet powerful cues that indicate your meditation practice is indeed taking root in your life. By the time you finish reading, I hope you’ll have a clear answer to the age-old question: How to know if meditation is working for you?

The Early Signs of Successful Meditation

Starting on your meditation journey can feel like stepping into the unknown, and it’s natural to wonder, “Is this working?” In the initial weeks, subtle signs can reassure you that your efforts are making an impact. Don’t expect a sudden transformation; instead, look for small wins like moments of calm or a clearer mind. Here are some positive signs that may indicate meditation is working for you in the initial weeks:

Increased Relaxation

Noticeable moments of relaxation during and after meditation sessions are a good sign. You may find that you’re better able to unwind and let go of stress.

Better Sleep Quality

Many individuals experience improved sleep after starting a meditation routine. If you find yourself sleeping more soundly or waking up feeling more refreshed, your meditation practice could be a contributing factor.

Heightened Awareness

Increased awareness of your thoughts and emotions, both during meditation and in daily life, is a sign that your mindfulness is deepening. This awareness lays the foundation for conscious living.

Joyful Moments

Moments of joy or contentment, even in simple things, can be a beautiful indication that your meditation practice is fostering a positive shift in your perspective.

Improved Focus

As you continue your practice, an enhanced ability to focus may become apparent. You might find it easier to concentrate on tasks without being easily distracted.

Recognizing Individual Experiences in Meditation

How to know if meditation is working

Remember, your meditation journey is as unique as you are. What works for one may not work the same for another. Embrace the individuality of your experience. Recognize these common experiences that you may encounter during the initial weeks of meditation.

Restless Mind

  • Challenge: A constant flow of thoughts and worries can feel frustrating and distracting.
  • Tips:
    • Gentle awareness: Observe your thoughts without judgment, like clouds passing in the sky.
    • Breath as an anchor: Gently guide your attention back to your breath when thoughts arise.
    • Compassion for your mind: Acknowledge the busy nature of the mind without self-criticism.

Impatience & Craving Results

  • Challenge: Desire for immediate progress can lead to frustration and disappointment.
  • Tips:
    • Focus on the journey, not the destination: Meditation is a process of cultivation, not achievement.
    • Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge and appreciate even minor improvements in focus or calmness.
    • Patience as a practice: Cultivate patience as a skill, allowing your practice to unfold organically.

Physical Discomfort

  • Challenge: Aching muscles, restlessness, or itchiness can disrupt your meditation.
  • Tips:
    • Find a comfortable posture: Experiment with different sitting positions to find one that feels supportive.
    • Gentle movements: Allow for micro-adjustments to stay comfortable without disrupting your focus.
    • Acceptance and equanimity: Accept physical sensations as temporary experiences and let them pass without judgment.

Emotional Resurfacing

  • Challenge: Suppressed emotions may arise during meditation, leading to discomfort or even tears.
  • Tips:
    • Welcome emotions with curiosity: View them as messages from your inner world, not something to push away.
    • Observe with non-attachment: Acknowledge emotions without getting caught in their story.
    • Self-compassion and kindness: Offer yourself gentle acceptance and understanding during emotional moments.

Moments of Stillness

  • Challenge: Maintaining these fleeting moments of peace can be difficult.
  • Tips:
    • Appreciate and savor: Allow yourself to fully experience these moments of stillness without clinging.
    • Anchor your awareness: Use your breath or a mantra to gently return to the present moment when distractions arise.
    • Practice off the cushion: Cultivate mindfulness in daily activities to extend the feeling of stillness.

Understanding Meditation Beyond the Myths

Many people think meditation is a magical way to find peace inside yourself, but there are some wrong ideas about it. Let’s clear up these myths and understand what meditation is all about.

How to know if meditation is working - Myth vs Reality

Myth 1: Meditation Means Emptying Your Mind

Reality: While achieving a perfectly empty mind might sound ideal, it’s not the goal of meditation. Our minds are naturally active, and thoughts are bound to arise. The key is to observe these thoughts without judgment and gently guide your attention back to your chosen anchor (e.g., breath, mantra).

Myth 2: Instant Nirvana

Reality: Hoping for instant enlightenment from the very first session is a setup for disappointment. Meditation is a gradual journey; real transformation unfolds over time with consistent practice.

Myth 3: One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Reality: Believing that there’s a universal formula for meditation success is another pitfall. Everyone’s experience is unique, and what works wonders for one person might not resonate as strongly with another. Explore various techniques and find what suits your unique preferences and needs.

Myth 4: Meditation is Escaping Reality

Reality: Meditation is not about escaping challenges or running away from your life. It’s about developing the tools to navigate reality with greater clarity and equanimity. By cultivating awareness, you can better manage stress, respond to difficulties with greater resilience, and appreciate the present moment.

Myth 5: Continuous Calmness

Reality: Life is a natural flow of ups and downs, and so is the mind. Expecting to be perpetually calm after meditation is unrealistic. The goal is not to eliminate emotions or fluctuations but to develop the ability to observe them with acceptance and navigate them with greater ease.

Myth 6: Visible Changes Only

Reality: Transformation through meditation often happens internally. Some expect meditation to manifest only in visible changes, like a serene demeanor or a perpetual smile. Don’t solely look for visible changes; focus on subtle shifts in how you respond to life’s challenges.

Remember, dispelling these misconceptions allows you to approach meditation with a more open and realistic mindset, setting the stage for genuine and sustainable benefits.

Realistic Meditation Outcomes: Insights from the Experts

Now that we’ve cleared the air on common myths, let’s explore what seasoned meditation practitioners and experts have to say about realistic outcomes. Understanding what to realistically expect can be a game-changer on your meditation journey.

Patience is Key

According to renowned meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Patience is a central element of mindfulness practice. It’s the art of allowing things to unfold in their own time.” Real change takes time, and the benefits of meditation often reveal themselves gradually. Be patient with yourself and the process.

Embracing Imperfection

As Sharon Salzberg, a prominent meditation instructor, often emphasizes, “Perfection is an illusion. So it is okay to have a ‘not-so-perfect’ meditation session. Your mind may wander, and that’s normal. The key is gently guiding it back to the present moment without judgment.

Small Wins Matter

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, a revered Zen master, “Celebrate the small victories in your meditation journey. It could be a moment of calm amidst a hectic day or a clearer mind for a brief period. These are signs that your practice is making a positive impact; acknowledge and appreciate them.

Mindfulness Off the Cushion

According to the teachings of Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun and author, “The benefits of meditation extend beyond your meditation cushion. Mindfulness, cultivated during meditation, seeps into your daily life, influencing how you approach challenges and interact with others.

It’s a Lifelong Journey

In the words of Jack Kornfield, a meditation teacher and author, “Meditation is a lifelong journey. As you evolve, so will your meditation practice. Embrace the ongoing growth and changes, understanding that every stage has its unique lessons.

How to Set Meaningful Meditation Goals & Track Changes

Setting realistic meditation goals and finding a way to track your progress can greatly enhance your meditation practice. Let’s break it down into simple steps.

Setting Meaningful Meditation Goals

How to know if meditation is working - Setting Meditation Goals

Identify your “why”

  • Connect to your deeper purpose: What drives you to explore meditation? Do you want to manage stress, improve sleep, enhance focus, cultivate self-compassion, or find greater inner peace? Understanding your “why” provides a strong foundation for setting meaningful goals.
  • Examples: “I want to meditate to reduce my daily stress and feel more calm and grounded throughout the day.” or “I’m hoping to improve my focus and concentration at work, and I believe meditation can help me achieve that.”

SMART goals

  • Specific: Define your goals clearly and concisely. Instead of “meditate more,” consider “meditate for 10 minutes daily” or “practice mindful breathing for 5 minutes before bed.”
  • Measurable: Choose metrics to track your progress. This could be minutes meditated, consistency rate, observed changes in your mental state (e.g., calmness, clarity), or specific behaviors you aim to cultivate (e.g., responding to stress with more awareness).
  • Achievable: Set realistic goals that are challenging but not overwhelming. Start small and gradually increase the duration or difficulty as you build your practice.
  • Relevant: Ensure your goals align with your overall purpose for meditation. If your “why” is stress reduction, focusing on longer sessions might not be as effective as shorter, regular practices.
  • Time-bound: Set a specific timeframe for achieving your goals. This could be a week, a month, or even a quarter. Having a deadline helps you stay motivated and track progress.

Focus on progress, not perfection

  • Celebrate small wins: Recognize and appreciate even minor improvements. Did you meditate for 5 minutes instead of your usual 3? That’s a victory!
  • Embrace imperfection: Don’t get discouraged by missed sessions or wandering thoughts. Every session is a learning experience, and occasional setbacks are part of the journey.
  • Focus on consistency: Aim for regular practice, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. Consistency is key to building a sustainable meditation habit and seeing long-term results.

Tracking Your Progress

Choose a method that works for you

  • Meditation apps: Many apps offer timers, progress logs, and guided meditations, making tracking convenient and engaging.
  • Journal: Write down your pre- and post-meditation thoughts, observations, and any changes you notice in your mental state. This can be a powerful tool for self-reflection.
  • Simple habit tracker: Create a simple chart or checklist to mark off completed sessions. This provides a visual reminder of your progress and helps maintain consistency.

Track what matters

  • Don’t get bogged down by too many metrics. Focus on the ones that directly align with your goals. For example, if your goal is stress reduction, track how you feel before and after meditation, not just the duration.
  • Be honest with yourself: Pay attention to how your practice truly impacts you, not just the numbers on a chart.

Adjust and re-evaluate

  • Regularly review your progress. Are your goals still relevant? Are your tracking methods serving you well? Don’t be afraid to adjust as needed.
  • Seek guidance: If you’re struggling to set goals or track progress, consider consulting a meditation teacher or therapist for personalized support. If you are looking for a meditation coach, then you should consider reading my post on how to choose a meditation coach.


As we conclude this post I hope you’ve found valuable insights that make meditation clearer and empower your journey to inner peace. Remember, the answer to the age-old question, “How to know if meditation is working for you?” lies in the subtle shifts, the moments of calm, and the growing awareness you cultivate. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned meditator, each session is a step toward a more mindful and balanced life.

Ready to dive a bit deeper? There’s something special waiting for you – a Meditation Program designed to make meditation a daily part of your everyday life. Your journey towards a more balanced and mindful life is just one click away!

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