First, look back on the year just past. If you happen to have kept a journal, that's perfect. If not, you can just look over your date book or appointment calendar, starting with January. This will help you remember what you were doing and what you were thinking and feeling this year. Ask yourself if you have made spiritual progress in 2014. How would you know? Meditation teacher Shinzen Young has suggested 5 ways. Did you progress, stay the same, or regress in any of these areas in the past year.
The first sign of spiritual progress is that you have less suffering. This is especially true with mental suffering. Were you captured less by afflictive emotions like self-pity,worry, resentment, hopelessness, harsh judgement of yourself and others, or jealousy? Do you have more equanimity with the ups and downs of life?
The second sign is that you have more fulfillment. Do you have more moments of gratitude for all that you have been given in this life? Have you truly enjoyed your friends and family, your work, your pastimes? Have you been able to savor the moments of pleasure and joy in your life without tension, distraction or worry.
The third sign of spiritual progress is that you have more insights into the nature of life and reality. You gradually know yourself better and you are better able to understand the interconnections between things and between events. You more often know instinctively the right thing to do in more and more situations.
The fourth sign is that you are engaging in more positive behaviors and in fewer negative behaviors.
The fifth and final sign is that you naturally and effortlessly find yourself acting with compassion and love in more situations. You have a growing desire to show kindness and to reach out in service to lessen the suffering of the world.
Look back on 2014 and see where you stand today in each of these 5 areas. You may want to write in your journal and make notes. Then, ideally after a time, or even a day or two of meditation, prayer and/or reflection, set one or more intentions for 2015. There probably shouldn't be more than 3. These are not New Years resolutions, but deep commitments to yourself to transform and improve your life. They should inspire you and not be an opportunity for failure or criticism. Write these intentions down and reflect on them throughout the coming year.