Zen Meditation Course 6 – Expectations
Welcome to session 6.
I want to talk this time about expectations when it comes to meditation. Why meditate? What are you expecting to happen? It’s only normal that when we take up a new activity it’s with the expectation of an outcome. Otherwise, why do anything?
Before we get into that though, let’s just set ourselves up in our sitting position. Bringing your awareness into how you’re physically feeling today. Scan your body for a while, adjust your position to find that comfortable posture, if you need to. Head aligned with spine, feet on the floor. Upper body relaxed and upright. Hands together in your lap, in the cosmic mudra.
Notice any areas of tension. Think about sitting with them and not being disturbed by them. If something’s really hurting you, then move. You can even lie down flat on your back if sitting is unbearable. People do meditate in this position, but it’s quite easy to fall asleep when you’re flat on your back. So I only suggest it if you’re in pain, and lying on your back relieves that pain.
Take a minute now to center yourself. Become aware of the physical center of your body, just below the navel. Keep your attention there for a few breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Let go of whatever’s been occupying your thoughts.
How do you feel emotionally? If something’s bugging you, maybe making you irritated or even angry, just sit with that feeling. If you can do this for a while you may find that the emotion begins to lose its power. It isn’t controlling you, in fact it’s you that’s in charge. And one thing you can be quite sure of: – emotions are like thoughts, they always change.
Breathe naturally, now. Follow your breath as you want to. You can count it on the exhale, or simply notice it as it comes into the body, and then leaves again.
(Ten breaths or so, here)
So, you may have come to meditation because you heard it was good for you. Calms you down, relaxes you. Perhaps you were told it relieves stress and is good for your health. And all those things are true.
There are certainly good reasons to meditate: – an increased clarity of mind, a rejuvenative effect on the body. So maybe you might decide that these reasons are goals that you need to achieve. And when you do that you find yourself looking for ways to measure progress.
All this is normal enough, when you’re relatively new to meditation. Even when you’ve been doing it a while you question your progress. But meditation is more about learning to be, rather than learning to do. It’s a bit of a loop really. You do the meditation to learn to just be, and out of that being comes more doing. They inform each other and build on each other.
Having said that, let’s just be here for a while longer, and watch our breathing. And let our thoughts pass by. And feel our body against the chair, or the floor.
(Ten more breaths)
So, it’s not wrong to have expectations. It gives you the energy you need to sit here, apparently doing nothing at all. But even doing nothing is doing something. After you’ve been doing this practice for a while you may find that you let go of these expectations. Just sitting, just being here, is enough. You’re sitting here, just experiencing what it’s like to be here. No future, no past. Just now. In fact, as time passes the only true constant is our experience, in this moment. It’s all we really have.
So, those expectations are thoughts, like any other. If they come to mind, acknowledge them and let them go. In time, they’ll take care of themselves.
Let’s sit and be for a few more breaths, now.
(Ten more breaths)
Now you can start to let go of your focus. Move around a bit, be aware of any sounds, stretch if you want to.
A famous Japanese teacher from the 13th century once said that ‘to study the self is to forget the self’. And when you do that, you find that your world is a little more spacious and your mind less restricted. Expectations become totally unnecessary.
See you soon, in the next session.
”If something’s bugging you, maybe making you irritated or even angry, just sit with that feeling. If you can do this for a while you may find that the emotion begins to lose its power. It isn’t controlling you, in fact it’s you that’s in charge.