Mindfulness meditation also goes by the moniker Vipassana, or insight meditation. When I mentioned this in our weekly classes some years ago, someone asked me well, just what sorts of insights do you get from meditating?
I was tempted to launch in to the standard Buddhist answer, providing a thumbnail sketch of the five skandhas and of how clinging creates dissatisfaction.
But, I thought better of it (I am getting the hang of this teaching thing) and I replied that we get to see how we create much of our own suffering by getting caught in an endless cycles of liking and disliking.
Of chasing after the pleasant and avoiding the unpleasant.
And sometimes we feel disappointment when we actually get what we are after, not just when we don’t.
Let’s call this phenomena by just one word: expectation.
Before I seriously began to meditate, I had no idea expectation was behind my much of my feelings of irritability, tiredness, and existential indifference.
Of course, expectations are not bad; it’s just how we frame then in our minds that can be a problem.
From a Buddhist point of view, expectations are formed in our mind when we want particular outcomes. Unfortunately, this wanting is often tinged with desire, aversion, or anxiety, which can put that slightly compulsive spin we call expectation.
We are not just talking about big expectations, such as the ones in you relationships, career and family life – we suffer just as much, maybe even more, from the smaller ones we hardly notice at all.
The next time you feel a little just a little impatient, or perturbed, or flustered, ask yourself: what were you expecting?
Yes, you could be enslaved by your expectations of what a loving relationship looks and feels like; you can be just as enslaved by what a good frappuccino tastes like.
Small sufferings have a way of building and snowballing, so are not to de discounted; to say nothing of the big ones.
Mindfulness allows us the space to see, challenge and to choose to let go of expectations in real time.
Sometimes we can skillfully choose to hold on lightly, though.
In meditation a huge block arises when we have subtle and not-so-subtle expectations of how our meditation should be progressing in the long run, to say nothing of expecting how it should be today as you sit down to meditate.
Expectations can tie us up if we don’t see how we have bought in to them.
Expectation is the antithesis of meditation. If you learn to do meditation for meditation’s sake, its wonderful benefits will come to you in time.
Meditation can be simply described as recognizing and seeing through expectations and staying in the creative now space.
Think of meditation like taking a brushing your teeth, or sleeping. It’s simply something you need to do every day.
A little lightness and humor helps. I remember Ram Dass quipping back in the early 1980s that as we get more acquainted with our inner stuff, like expectations, we become “connoisseurs of our own neurosis.”
I will leave you this week with one of my most favorite lines from Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”:
I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or
ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now,
or with equal cheerfulness,
I can wait.