Meditation has always been about self-knowledge, not self improvement. It’s as well to understand this because in the end meditation will come down to self-knowledge, and as the mind opens up that can come as a bit of a surprise if not prepared for it. But paradoxically if meditation is practised with self-knowledge as the purpose, then self-improvement automatically follows. Whereas if self-improvement is pursued for its own sake, that does happen but not so easily or spontaneously.
It's like if you have to climb a mountain, but to get to the mountain first you have to get over a hill. The hill is no obstacle because the mind is set on the challenge of the mountain. Whereas if the aim is only to climb the hill, the mind has a different attitude. The hill becomes a greater challenge than if it were just something to handle on the way. While being realistic, the higher the goal the greater the personal achievement. And there is no limitation on anyone anywhere being able to discover more about themselves and benefitting immensely from that.
To know ourselves more deeply, to understand ourselves more fully, we have to turn away for some time from the world out there and find a way into the complete, infinite and mysterious world within. That inner world is with us all the time but we just don’t seem to pay that much attention to it and, even if we want to go there, we may not know how to do it. There are four conditions for successful and satisfying meditation experience: voluntarily detaching from the magnetism of the active outer life for some time; knowing how to turn inward; knowing what to do when you get there; and facing up to it as you begin to discover yourself more and more.