Before heading to the grocery store, we make a list of the things we need.
Before attending a class or a workshop, we anticipate what we will learn. Before dating someone, we hope they’ll fit the image we have of them in our minds. That’s how we subconsciously operate in life.
Before we do almost anything, we are likely to expect a certain outcome. As human beings with an active mind and infinite wisdom, we naturally want predictability.
We often also want predictability in our meditation practice. We expect to feel good, to not have any thoughts, to relax, or to have particular realizations.
It’s only natural to expect good outcomes from any kind of spiritual practice. However, the certainty we long for in meditation only limits the depth of experience we’re about to have.
You see, one of the biggest problems in the world today is the attachment to the outcome of our expectations. When things don’t go the way we expect, we mentally and emotionally suffer.
Meditation is supposed to make us feel good. But when we think it hasn’t, we suffer abundantly. We might drop the practice altogether or think that meditation is just not for us.
But it really all boils down to one thing. Before starting your meditation practice, make sure you ask yourself whether you have any expectations or not. Predicting how our mindfulness practice will go is a certain step toward failure. The fact is, our meditation practice might not always go as we imagine. In order not to give ourselves a hard time about it or set ourselves up for disappointment, we must practice “non-expectation” before meditating.
Non-expectation simply implies believing that there’s no such thing as a “bad meditation.”
My meditation practice has become significantly different since I stopped making things complicated. When I sit for meditation, I let it be. I let myself experience every good outcome and, simultaneously, every unfavorable one.
Meditation, at the end of the day, is learning to go with the flow. It’s not about stopping thoughts from flowing or feeling deep relaxation. Meditation is about accepting every experience that reveals itself to us from moment to moment without judging it, overanalyzing it, pushing it away, or desiring it to persist.
The best way to begin our meditation practice is to simply stay open to all kinds of sensations, experiences, and revelations. This is what truly matters. The image we have in our minds about our mindfulness experience comes from the ego that seeks perfection and success. But the reality of our experiences is imperfect and almost never flawless.
The path toward true meditation is effortless. It is what it is. When you sit, sit for now. Don’t sit in meditation in order to get to a certain destination. “Now” is the only destination.
Before you start your meditation practice, say out loud:
“I have no expectation whatsoever from this practice.
I might feel at ease and I might feel pain. Either way, it’s okay.
I might work skillfully with my thoughts and I might let my mind wander away. Either way, it’s okay.
I might stay attentive the entire time and I might doze off. Either way, it’s okay.
I might meditate for one hour and I might meditate for 10 minutes. Either way, it’s okay.
I might stay aware of my emotions and I might let them control me. Either way, it’s okay.”
When we don’t set the bar too high, we will return to meditation again and again. Since there will be no disappointment, we will always be keen to continue our mindfulness practice.