You may think that you can’t measure your inner growth because it’s not quantifiable like your weight or height. Inner growth is a ripening or maturing of your outlook and responses to life.
And yet, there are ways to measure your inner growth. You won’t need a physical measuring instrument but rather, some time for regular introspection.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself that may be helpful to measure your inner growth.
How are you spending your time?
Spiritual master, Swami Tejomayananda explains that time management isn’t about managing time, but managing ourselves given the time we have. This is self-discipline, an important aspect of life-management.
When we have time on our hands, we generally follow our inherent interests and habits and do things that give us pleasure. There is nothing wrong in enjoying the things that we love. It is important that we make the time to rest, relax and rejuvenate doing those things.
But if you are interested in your inner growth, discernment and moderation must guide your choices.
Spending hours on things that are merely for entertainment or time-fillers is not a good use of your time. These activities dull our minds and deplete our energy. They take away time that could be used for more productive things such as delving into a creative hobby, community service, physical exercise, spiritual reading and reflection, and any number of things that exercise the body and mind and feed your soul.
Time gone is gone forever. If inner growth is a priority, then you must manage yourself wisely to get the most benefit out of the time you have.
What is occupying your mind?
Imagine chopping some vegetables like carrots, onions, or peppers with a blunt knife. The process will be difficult and a hazard to you because the dull blade will slip and slide over your ingredients and you will need more force to cut them. This will increase the chances of you losing control of the knife and badly cutting your fingers in the process.
The mind is the instrument that determines how we see the world and interact with it. It can be compared to a knife. If it is kept clean and sharp, it will do its job beautifully. When we keep the mind healthy, it will help us handle life’s challenges with greater skill and ability without becoming negative or getting overwhelmed.
A sharp, healthy mind doesn’t just happen; it must be carefully nurtured with the right knowledge and inspiration. This could be done by reading spiritual literature, or watching videos, movies and programs that are uplifting and educational. It could be spending time with people who are spiritually inclined or being alone in nature.
If you are concerned about your inner growth, you can pause to reflect and question what you feed your mind: “What is occupying my mind? Does watching, reading or doing this thing serve my higher purpose? Why am I doing it? Is it positive or negative? Does it bring peace to my mind or disturb it?”
We must be more discerning about what we allow into our minds. Happy and positive inputs will have a similar effect on our minds.
You can measure your inner growth by comparing how careful you are about what you feed your mind today than what you used to feed it in the past.
How do your moods affect you?
The mind goes through different moods which influence how we think and feel. Sometimes the mind is quiet, clear, and cheerful. Sometimes it is overwhelmed by various desires to get up and get things done. Or there are times when the mind feels lazy and isn’t motivated to do much.
Although we all experience these moods, we don’t have to be their victim. You can measure your inner growth by how well you are able to detach and rise above these moods.
You can use the F.I.R. test as explained by Swami Aparajitananda. The acronym F.I.R. stands for Frequency, Intensity and Recovery.
Frequency: How frequently are you disturbed by life’s little inconveniences or by what people say or do? Do you easily feel annoyed, impatient or angry?
Intensity: How intensely are you disturbed? Slightly, or very disturbed?
Recovery: How quickly do you recover from your bad mood? Does it take days for your mind to recover? Do you hold on to grudges for months or years, or are you able to let things go and move on?
As you grow inwardly, you will find that you don’t get annoyed or angry as often. Even if you do, it’s mild and you recover easily without allowing people and things to bother you.
You can measure your inner growth by checking to see how much your F.I.R. has reduced over time.
How often do you remember God?
God is the divine source of all things and beings and is our creator. Your body and its functions, your mind and your ability to think and feel, your power to walk, talk, grasp, lift etc. and your sense faculties like seeing, hearing and smelling all originate from this divine source. We were born with these gifts.
Remembering the divine presence of God in our life with gratitude keeps us connected to our source. Faith in God helps us gain the strength and resilience to face life and also prevents us from being caught up and overwhelmed by the drama of daily life.
One simple way to remember God is to chant a mantra or a holy name as you go about your day.
In the past, you may have gone days, weeks or even months without remembering God. As you practice bringing in the remembrance of God in your life, you will find that the intervals of forgetfulness become shorter and shorter—from once or twice a week to every day; from daily to several times a day, every few hours. The time gaps without remembering God will become shorter and shorter.
The goal is to remember God at all times, and under all circumstances. This will bring great inner peace and strength to our mind.
An easy way to ensure that we remember God every day is making a habit of saying a prayer of thanks before meals. This way, we will remember God and our blessings at least three times a day.
How often do you remember God?
Are you meditating daily?
Meditation is good for everyone and a must if you want to grow inwardly. It helps to bring peace within by quieting the thoughts. It brings much-needed rest for a busy mind.
The practice of observing our thoughts in meditation brings detachment from our identification with the mind. It helps us learn about ourselves and cultivates clarity on how we are interacting with others. This in turn helps us make higher choices in life that promote inner peace and well-being.
Do you enjoy the time that you spend in self-reflection and meditation? Do you crave for it when you miss a day or two?
You can measure your inner growth by noticing how much you seek the peace of your own inner Self in meditation.
Do you have a greater self-awareness?
As we grow inwardly, we want to live in greater self-awareness.
To measure how well you are growing inwardly, you can ask yourself: Are you more mindful of your thoughts, words, and actions than you used to be? Are you better able to maintain a positive mind, speak honestly and kindly? Even if you think negative thoughts, are you better able to stop yourself from expressing them through harsh words and rough actions that you will later regret?
To live mindfully, learn to slow down by reducing your daily activities. If you can’t do that, then this practice will be helpful: Take 10-15 minutes alone every day to sit and do nothing but watch your thoughts. Simply allow the thoughts to come up and be aware of them.
This simple practice will give you an idea what your mind is made of, and through that knowing, clarity about how you are really living your life and your true inner motives. You may gain some surprising insights and different perspectives on your life.
Spending time in solitude to introspect fosters integrity of character and inner peace. It is an effective way to live with greater self-awareness and thus promote a steady inner growth.
Do you take responsibility for your own life and happiness?
In the earlier stages of our inner maturity, we look outwards for our sense of fulfillment and happiness. If there are conflicts in relationships, we blame others for it. If there are any difficulties in life, we also blame others for it—the government, the economy, the state of world affairs or anyone else we think owes us a better life.
But as we grow inwardly, we want to live a more conscious and positive life. A desire to do better and be better arises within us.
We no longer wait for others to change. We are more concerned about transforming our own thoughts, words and behaviour.
Are you able to take ownership of your sense of well-being without waiting for others to change or take charge? How well are you able to maintain your own peace of mind today compared to how you were in the past? This is a measure of your inner growth.
Inner growth is an evolution in consciousness
Growing inwardly is an evolution in consciousness. Evolution happens slowly but surely. Just as a butterfly cannot revert to being a caterpillar again, once a higher stage has been reached, there is no going back to the lower.
Whether we evolve consciously or unconsciously, we are all in the slow process of self-transformation.
The questions in this article are some examples that you can use to measure your own inner growth. What other questions can you think of? Please post them in the comments below.
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