Having expectations during meditation introduces effort and will keep the mind at a superficial level. Letting go of expectations is the doorway to profound experiences—here's how.
One of the biggest causes of suffering in the world today is expectations. Imagine how free you would feel if every day you were able to just “go with the flow,” trusting that the Universe was organizing everything perfectly. Well, this is exactly what the Universe is doing, but by imposing your ideas of how things should be, you end up struggling against the current.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have desires or plans for the future. Desires and plans are fine; it’s your attachment to their outcome—your expectations—that causes the challenges. Being nonattached and letting go of expectations is like saying, “This is what I think I want, but if there’s something even better, it’s okay to send that instead.” That’s when the magic begins!
Opening the Door
While expectations in meditation may not cause direct suffering to your life, they will impede your free passage into the field of Infinite Possibilities, denying you the opportunity to live a fuller, happier, and healthier life. The process of meditation is to be effortless, using the vehicle of your mantra or breath to guide you to deeper, more refined levels of thinking.
Having expectations during meditation—wondering if the thoughts that come and go are meaningful—introduces effort and will keep the mind at a superficial level. Letting go of expectations is the doorway to profound experiences.
Mechanics of Stress Release
You begin your meditation by silently repeating your mantra or perhaps observing your breath. Immediately the mind begins to settle down, and because the mind and body are interconnected, the body also begins to experience a more restful state. Rest is how the body naturally heals itself by removing whatever isn’t supposed to be there—stress, fatigue, toxins.
The mind and the body eventually settle down to a level where the rest is sufficient to release a stress. Stresses are physical—we feel knots of stress in our shoulders, tightness in our back, etc.—so when the stress is released, it causes an increase in physical activity. This physical activity causes a corresponding increase in mental activity (thinking thoughts). The mind drifts away from the mantra and gets lost in thoughts. So the thoughts we have in meditation are an indication that stress is being released.
The release of stress forces the mind to begin thinking thoughts; the mind attaches itself to the closest image or sensation, which is usually what is currently going on in your life. Sometimes the stress being released carries a particular mood or emotion, which may “flavor” the mind and so the thoughts reflect that feeling. Meditation is a process of purification so, while you may be hoping for something insightful, most of the thoughts you have during it are just the garbage being taken out.
Even though the process of meditation is effortless, you need to have discipline in your approach to your practice. When you sit down to meditate, decide how long you plan to meditate and stick with it. Avoid the temptation to jump up early to act on some thought you have during the practice. Stay with the process, and when you notice your mind is wandering, gently turn your attention back to your meditation. The end of meditation, when the mind is fresh and alert, is the best time to review any thoughts you had during the meditation and ask yourself if they are important to you.
The Karmic Trap
All thoughts originate in the silent field of Infinite Possibilities, rising like bubbles from the bottom of a lake to burst on the surface of your conscious awareness. Initially, every thought is profound and insightful, reflecting your true essence. However, as they rise through the mind, they must pass through all your layers of karma, your stored memories and desires. This distorts the purity of the thoughts, resulting in them manifesting as the illusory world in which we live. Once in a while, a thought manages to slip through the “karmic minefield” unscathed and this is when you can experience a moment of insight and inspiration.
Knowing the Difference
How do you know if a thought is important and insightful? Whether it was a thought during meditation or one that came during the day’s activity, ask your heart or Higher Self for guidance. Ask if this is your soul or your ego telling you what to do and listen to your body’s signals of comfort or discomfort. Ask yourself, “Does this choice serve my growth and allow me to serve those around me?”
The first impulse from the heart is the true insight. The second impulse is from the mind and is usually clouded by doubts, concerns, habits, and fears. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider our choices rationally, but always remember that first impulse when making the final choice.
The thoughts and experiences you have in meditation are a reflection of what’s going on in your life. You could say that every thought you have in meditation is profound in its own way because it gives you the experience you need at that time. Meditation is a tool to help you enrich your life; the experiences you have during the process shouldn’t be seen as the goal. If you want to judge the value of your meditation, look at the changes and growth in your life.
Enjoy the Gift
The key to life is to let experiences—thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images—whether in or outside of meditation, come and go. Remain the witness to them all, without trying to hold on to or reject anything. Ultimately, all experience is for growth and evolution. Instead of analyzing your experiences, ask yourself, “What new state of Being has resulted from the experience?” This way you will enjoy each and every moment as the gift it is.
Ready to start flowing with the universe, instead of against it? Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps make every day feel easy, fresh, and fulfilling with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra. Learn More.