Sometimes we can become discouraged over our progress in meditation. The goal of meditation is so exalted that when we compare it with our own experience of meditation, we can begin to question our practice. In the inspiring story below, John — due to a perceived lack of results — finds himself gradually questioning the value of his spiritual discipline. John eventually learns what the true reward of all spiritual effort is:
Deep in the forest, John was asleep in his cabin, when suddenly his room was filled with beautiful light. The Lord appeared and told John He had a special task for him to do. He showed John a large rock in front of the cabin and said, “I want you to push this rock with all of your might.” John did this dutifully day after day.
After some time, however, John began to grow disheartened — because the rock had not moved at all. Frustrated, John prayed, “Lord, I have toiled long and hard to move this rock, but nothing has happened. I feel I have failed; pushing this rock seems like a waste of time.”
The Lord replied, “I told you to push the rock, John, I didn’t say to move it. Look how strong your body has become from pushing the rock. I do not care about the rock, John; I care about you. All this time, I have only wanted to see you become stronger in yourself. This is why I asked you to push the rock.”
Concentration is like a muscle — it grows stronger as it is exercised. Every moment we spend focusing at the spiritual eye, calming our breath, listening to the inner sounds, or practicing devotion, is building our strength so that we can better give ourselves to God. We are in “training” when we meditate — just as John was when pushing his rock. St. Teresa of Avila said, “A meditation is well done, if all you did was fight distraction.” During meditation we are learning to be the master of our own energy.
God can give Himself to us only after we give ourselves to Him. Meditation is the practice of perfecting our ability to offer ourselves totally to God. During every meditation let us be grateful for the opportunity to practice becoming stronger in ourselves. God is thrilled by every effort we make.
Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Never think that God does not answer your prayers. Every word you have whispered to Him He has written in His heart and someday He will answer you.”