The art of meditation is something that should be handled with delicacy if we want the intentioned outcome to be a positive experience. Since our thoughts shape our reality in ways we all too often take for granted, the effectiveness of our meditation sessions largely depend on our state of mind. Whether or not meditation has the desired effects we seek largely depends on us. This is why it is important to pay attention to our attitudes towards meditation and how we meditate. There are some attitudes that are especially powerful in hindering the positive and beneficial effects of meditation that I will address here, since it seems that far too often we fall into these thought-patterns that result in us having a sub-par meditation experience with sub-par results. Inspired by Henepola Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English, here are some common attitudes towards meditation that should be avoided if we wish to experience a fully satisfying meditation experience.
Have no expectations for what you are about to experience
Be aware and just let it happen. Do not have an expectation that some particular result will come about from your meditation. Do not expect yourself to become a fully liberated yogi at the end of your session or have some profound realization or insight. Just let it happen, at its own pace and speed. There should be no force on your part towards the meditation, but rather, let the meditation guide you…let your unconscious, your inner being, your higher self, to take control of your consciousness. A meditative state is no place for our perceptions, predispositions, beliefs, or ideas about any aspect of Reality that exists. The only thing that those things will do for us is to act as stumbling blocks on our way towards pure no-mind awareness.
Do not force the experience
Do not feel that you need to force on the meditative state. Try not to worry if you are finding it difficult to get rid of the distracting thoughts that are buzzing through your mind. Meditative is not an aggressive experience…far from it. Be calm and relaxed during the meditation and remember, energy flows where attention goes.
Do not rush the experience
Meditating is not like other activities we partake in. It is one of those things where the quicker you try to get it done, the worse the outcome is, which is a far cry from what our attitude is towards accomplishing other things. Our brainwaves need to slow down from the hyper-alert beta state down to the relaxed alpha and even further down into the tranquil theta state. So do not try to rush it…take your time. Time, after all, is a non-existent concept in the meditative state. Get comfortable and shift your mind state to one where time does not exist. Anything truly productive takes longer than a few moments to flower into something beautiful.
Be unattached to what happens
Leave your feelings of attachment at the door, because there is no place for them in meditation. We have to be aware that if we cling onto something or reject something that arises during the meditation, we will have let our ego take over the experience. If a positive mental image arises, observe it mindfully. If a negative mental image comes up, observe it mindfully. It is perfectly alright if things are conjured up in the forefront of your mind that you did not expect and perhaps did not desire. We should never fight the experience, but rather be mindful and aware of it all.
Go with the flow. As the Beatles song Tomorrow Never Knows says, “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream”.
Fully accept any and all feelings that you experience during your meditation. Yes, even the ones that you wish you did not have. Realize that we are all human beings and a side effect of that is that we are flawed and make mistakes in this incarnate reality. Do not put yourself down if something startling or frightening comes up. View all that comes into the scope of your awareness as being natural and understandable. Accept the experience and all that it shows you. Acceptance means choosing to see the absolute perfection and beauty in everything. Everything and everyone is currently operating at its own level of awareness and/or evolution. Everyone and everything is what it is right now because that is what it needs to learn or un-learn.
Be easy on yourself
Be gentle and kind to yourself. As human beings, we always have something that we need to work and improve on. The process of becoming who we want to be first starts with an acceptance of who we are.
When looking at a problem, see a possibility
Look at problems not as problems but as challenges. Difficult experiences and situations in life can be excellent opportunities for growth and transcendence. Most importantly perhaps, do not run away from your problems because it is impossible to run away from them and growth simultaneously. Look at a problem as a personal growth opportunity.
Do not focus on differences
By having the right attitude for meditation, we can carry over lessons we learn within that experience out into our everyday lives. We need to have complete acceptance of the fact that differences exist between us all and always will. If we stay focused on what divides us instead of what unites us, the ego will inflate in such a way that our thoughts will change from being positive to being negative and our level of consciousness will drop lower and lower into increasingly-egoistic mind states. Envy, shame, guilt, pride, jealously, hatred, and greed lead to a negative emotional state and provide little fruit. It is difficult not to compare ourselves to others and focus on the differences between us, but we have to accept it as being part of the human experience and something to be worked on and transcended as much as we possibly can. We can get rid of this particularly-challenging problem by examining it through and through, replacing it with a more fruitful habit…noticing the similarities between us…those things which are universal to all life.