Meditation: How to set the right expectations – Excerpt

Excerpt from Your 3 best superpowers

The next step in preparing to successfully meditate is to have realistic, grounded expectations of your practice before you begin.
When I began learning to play the piano (which is a wonderful form of meditation, by the way), I was very enthusiastic. Learning scales was easy, and I loved and looked forward to playing for at least 30 minutes a day. But after a few weeks, it was time to start learning to play simple songs and then more complicated ones. This didn’t prove quite as easy for me as playing scales was. Inevitably, I would make mistake after mistake, and I became more and more frustrated with the experience. Soon, I began avoiding practicing, finding one excuse or another, until in a matter of weeks I was no longer playing the piano at all. I decided I was no good. The truth was that I was just impatient and my ego didn’t like the basic repetitive steps of being a beginner. I was in such a hurry to master the piano that I did not want to slow down, settle in, and teach myself the basics that were necessary to move on.
I believe something similar happens to a lot of people when they start to meditate for the first time. So many people that I have worked with have come back to say, “I meditated just fine when I was in your class or workshop, but on my own, I couldn’t sit still for even a few minutes before I was driven to distraction, so I just gave up.” For them, meditating feels like sitting with ants in their pants, and each minute is an excruciating, long, exasperating fight with their runaway mind. They feel as though they are more stressed and upset than before they were meditating in the first place. No wonder they give up.
I understand their frustration. When beginning to meditate, the effort often doesn’t feel good when it is supposed to. In fact, it either feels as though we aren’t accomplishing anything or it feels as though we are trying to either wrestle a bear into a cage or catch a slippery fish, not succeeding at either. It’s not surprising, then, especially in the western world of instant gratification, that meditation just doesn’t seem, at first, to deliver what it promises. So we give up and walk away.
We like to feel as though we are masters, rather than beginners, and if we don’t feel as if we are mastering something fast enough, irritation and ego take over and we quit. We have high expectations of meditation, but the initial experience falls far short of reaching those expectations. That is why it is very important, when developing this fantastic superpower, to embrace a beginner’s mind and not expect masterful results too quickly.

  • Expectations Tip: Keep your expectations simple.
  • Expect your mind to wander.
  • Expect to become restless and antsy at times.
  • Expect to not want to do it.”
  • “Expect that you may not feel much at first.
  • Expect that you may not feel much even after a while.
  • Expect that you will still benefit even if you don’t notice it right away.
  • Expect that with time it will get easier and easier.
  • Expect that your effort will pay off.
  • Expect that this is a welcome, healing break and not a task to master.
  • Expect to improve and go deeper and deeper into meditation more quickly if you stick with it.
  • Expect that every little bit counts.”

~ Your 3 Best Super Powers

Also published on Medium.