The agenda of ‘self’ and the agenda of enlightenment are very different.
As we develop our meditation and interest in the Dhamma, we keep bumping into the resistances of self. It would be nice to be enlightened and free, and as meditators and dhamma practitioners we put a lot of energy into this. But at the same time we can feel bewildered because there is also a lot of resistance, a lot of forgetfulness, a lot of not wanting to be enlightened, free and happy.
Trying to measure progress in dependence on our notions of worldly success is very frustrating for the ego because when we get better at our Dhamma practice, there is no guarantee that people will notice. From the worldly point of view, when we feel happy, peaceful, loving, caring and bright, it seems that we are doing wonderfully well. That is how the world views it – we’re looking good. People love us because we are attractive; we have powerful peaceful energy.
But progress in Dhamma is not shown through the way things appear to be. We may seem more patient, kind and relaxed, but in my experience the moments that are really powerful and transformative happen when people don’t look that great!
This reflection by Ajahn Sundara is from the book, Seeds of Dhamma, (pdf) pp. 77-78.