I recently received a question about experiences in meditation. I am reproducing in part my response here on the blog because I feel many people have a similar question.

The experiences you are having are sometimes called “consolations.” I tend to think of them as glimpses of awakening. Everything seems to make sense in those moments, to fall into place so clearly that we may wonder why we couldn’t see it sooner. We may want to stay in that space, but we cannot. I don’t believe that enlightenment, whatever it means, is dwelling constantly in those mountaintop moments because I don’t know that we could tolerate the view from the mountaintop all the time. I do believe we are given those moments of insight as a reward for the work we are doing. They are good, they are wonderful, and they aren’t the point at all.

In a sense, like a rich dessert, those moments of bliss can become a distraction if we start reaching for them or take them as a measure of “progress” (an awful word) on the path. Experiences will come and go, and if we start chasing them they become a serious problem. I don’t know if you are familiar with the work of B.F. Skinner and operant conditioning (here’s a brief video demonstrating it https://youtu.be/TtfQlkGwE2U), but if we chase after the rewarding experiences in meditation we can become like Skinner’s pigeons, convinced that certain behaviors invariably produce a reward. 

In my experience, a more effective view is that in meditation practice the practice itself is the goal. Whether or not there are experiences, however we feel before, during, and after a practice session, we cannot fail because doing meditation itself is the point. There will be benefits, experiences, and changes within us, but they are best understood as wonderful but secondary gains that really don’t measure progress but are a nice reward – like that rich dessert. In this way, if we have experiences, that is great. If we don’t, that’s great too. 
I hope this helps!

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