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Real Growth: Reward Yourself!

Jul 5, 2008
It is very easy, particularly for students of meditation to get lost in austerity and ascetic practice. There is something to be said for learning to accept and transmute discomfort and pain, but it will drastically increase the momentum of your practice if you learn to reward yourself.

Ultimately, no learning will take place without the subconscious mind getting involved. The subconscious mind handles long term memory. Typically, the conscious mind tends to bounce around day-to-day rather whimsically. Naturally, the subconscious mind doesn't take much of this scattered thought seriously. What the subconscious mind does take seriously is repetition and emotional content. Most of us have heard the saying "Repetition is the mother of skill." But how many of us know that we have to get emotionally involved (passionate, joyous, etc.) in order to develop a skill quickly? One of the easiest ways to do this is with 'feel good' rewards.

We tend to be very good at rewarding children, but not ourselves (or other adults for that matter). The subconscious mind still responds very favorably to this, though, no matter how old you are. When you are doing well, it is important to acknowledge to yourself that you are doing well; this reinforces the drive to learn the new skill. Appropriately rewarding yourself will get the subconscious mind involved with learning the new skill quicker and more completely.

The most important time to reward yourself is immediately after practice or a successful performance. When there is time, it is good to go back and review the specifics of what went well, and also look at what needs to be improved. You can test different rewards to see what seems to work best for you. The easiest thing to do immediately after practice is to feel good about yourself and the skill. Associating good feelings with the practice and application of the skill will bring your entire mind into the learning process.

This is the same with meditation. You will have to get the subconscious mind 'onboard' in order to maintain the practice and experience the really powerful states. Particularly in the beginning, you will want to at least mentally pat yourself on the back every time you remember to practice. You can just smile into yourself and say "Nice Job!" Whenever you reach milestones, a larger reward is appropriate. Every time you meditate for a significantly longer period of time (you will have to decide what constitutes 'significantly longer'), you will want to do something special for yourself to acknowledge your accomplishment.

You don't want to take the rewarding too far. Rewarding yourself with 30 minutes of personal time to do whatever you like is good, but if you aren't cautious and somewhat disciplined, this can easily turn into the rest of the evening. Be certain to maintain some level of control with the reward.

When you really develop the habit of rewarding yourself in meditation and other areas of your life, growth and success will become much more natural for you. When you feel good about it, your entire mind will be supporting the new skill. And the more you enjoy the experience, the longer you will stick with it!
About the Author
Benjamin Langley has been studying and training in meditation, yoga, and other sciences of the mind for over 10 years. He regularly writes and shares powerful insights on his own blog. Come take a look: http://peacefulprosperity.com/blog
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