Often just like any other skill, once people start meditating they try to master meditation. They want to excel at it. They imagine themselves becoming quiet and peaceful and completely mindful. They imagine what a perfectly blissful state they would be in if they master meditation.
This is one of the reasons people actually get disenchanted with meditation, often sooner rather than later.
How long does it take to master meditation?
The fact is, that mindfulness and meditation need to be practiced without an achievement mindset. Meditation is not a linear skill. Yes, you do get better at being mindful with practice, but that’s not the goal. Unlike learning a sport where your final intention is to play very well, mindfulness and meditation are about just being in the here and now.
So, to whatever extent awareness gets cultivated is helpful, but there is nothing to achieve or see in terms of results.
Treating meditation as another skill is actually a deep loss for you. Instead of getting in touch with the gentle and restful nature of just being in the present for whatever it is, you stress yourself by pushing yourself to excel in one more skill!
Here’s a nice Zen story that highlights this point:
Time to Learn
A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
“If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.”
The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?”
Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
(Story source: http://spiritual-minds.com/stories/zen.htm)