One problem that may cause issues for you in at least the beginning phases of meditation is mismatched expectations. This is related to the problem discussed recently, “I’m thinking MORE, now that I’m meditating!”
If you believe that meditation is about not thinking, and that you should be sitting there with pure silence in your head when you’re meditating, like our little contemplating bunny-friend at the top of this post, or like this other very seriously-minded friend:
Then it’s sure to set you up for disappointment.
Especially if your actual experience when you sit down to meditate is, ahem, a bit more chaotic than that.
If you’re like almost everyone else on the planet, when you try to meditate the experience is more like these guys:
When your actual experience of meditation looks less like the contemplating bunny, and more like the crazy bunnies — but you think you should be like the cute quiet calm bunny — then you’re going to have issues.
(This is true in all of life, isn’t it? When you expect your partner to be a certain way, then it’s only going to cause frustration for you and potentially conflict with your partner.)
It’s highly unlikely that your experience of meditation will be ANYTHING like what you expect it to be.
It’s definitely unrealistic to expect that the practice of meditation will cease the thoughts from coming.
The thoughts never cease. Over years of practice you will be able to calm yourself, and find stillness, and through that it’s common that the thoughts slow down.
And over time, the velocity of mental activity natural finds a new resting spot, whether you’re meditating or going about your day. All of these things will happen, and more, if you keep up with your practice.
But it’s really not possible that when you first sit down to meditate (meaning, anytime in the first like ten years of your practice!!) that your mind will go completely still and all thoughts fall away.
Yes you may be blessed with incredible moments of quiet and clarity, and these may happen often.
But it’s probably not going to happen right away, and it’s not going to happen unless you devote yourself to a regular practice of meditating every day for an extended period of time. Where you focus. Where you exert effort to concentrate.
If you’re experiencing a bliss or an ecstasy in meditation and there is an absence of thought, then that’s AWESOME!
But it’s also important to examine the meditation state and be honest.
Are you actually just sleeping? Spacing out? Going into a dream-like fugue state?
If so, that’s not meditating. It’s zoning out. It may be an altered state of consciousness, different from your day-to-day, and you may experience things very differently. But be circumspect, and make sure that you’re not fooling yourself. Drifting is not meditation.
If you go into the learning of meditation with the expectation that you should be able to stop your thought and still the mind, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s just not how it works. The brain is a thought generating machine. It’s what it does. It’s just like how the lungs breathe in air and the heart pumps the blood: The brain thinks thoughts.
Those thoughts will definitely change, both the nature of them and their quality and also their quantity. But this is a natural byproduct of spiritual evolution, as you improve your ability to concentrate, and you spend more time intentionally accepting What Is to be present, in the Now, without escaping.
It’s important to be kind to yourself and understand that this is a process, and thoughts will be thought, and that’s totally OK. Just keep going with your practice and you will discover what happens to your life when you are a meditator.
Being without expectation, and welcoming whatever experiences are presented to you, will help you stick with it and enjoy the ride.
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