I consider myself to be a reasonably serious meditator. I’ve taken the time to look deeply at my mind, with varying degrees of intensity, for going on twenty years now. I’m still no kind of expert, but I have noticed a few significant changes for the better. One big difference is that I find meditating to be less effort and more fun.
I was thinking about that as I drove home today after meditating with Kristine Zakarison and two other friends this afternoon, and I thought it might be a good subject for her blog.
One reason I have more fun meditating now is that I’m no longer imposing so many expectations on what I should experience. In the early days, I expected that by watching my breath and being aware of my thoughts I should be able to make the thoughts go away, or at least reduce them enough to produce a calm state of mind. If I didn’t manage that I gave myself a mental scolding. “Bad meditator!” I said. “Bad!”
I also thought I should never fall asleep, squirm on my cushion or fantasize about food. (Honestly, I remember a week-long retreat when I couldn’t seem to quit visualizing bell peppers. Go figure.) I had a long list of things I could do wrong.
Over the years, I have let that go (at least to a large degree). Each morning I approach my meditation with curiosity. “What will my meditation be like today?” I ask myself. “Will I relax into the joy of pure consciousness or will I feel like I’m half crazy?” It’s fun to see what turns up! I simply try to perceive what is present without identifying with it. All kinds of mental phenomena (or the lack of it) comes and goes.
I didn’t tell myself to quit having expectations and judgments. It just happened naturally over time. And, here’s what was surprising to me: the less I tried to force a sense of well-being into my meditations, the more it arose naturally on its own. I had made friends with the experience! Now, whether I struggle to stay awake, fight an urge to plan my grocery list, come up with a brilliant insight, acknowledge some worry, or sit in blessed awareness of the present moment, I consider it a privilege to live the adventure.