Earlier today, I sat down for the first time in two days for a twenty-minute meditation session. I don’t know why, but for some reason my mind was going a million miles per hour. Hopefully you haven’t experienced this too often but it was one of those mornings where no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get out of my head. My thoughts were racing and my body was filled with energy.
The moment I closed my eyes as I sat for my meditation session, I felt my body tighten up. My core contracted and I began to feel heat throughout my arms and legs. My breath seemed hurried and even incomplete at times.
When I experience unease I almost always feel it in my stomach and this morning my stomach felt like it was on fire. The mind was telling my body it was in danger and as I tried to settle into my session the feeling of unease persisted.
Why am I so amped up?
What’s really going on up there in my head?
As the minutes ticked away I finally eased into my session and before I knew it, my twenty minutes were finished. As I normally do, I looked around the room before moving and took inventory of my emotional and mental state.
To my surprise my body was still buzzing and my mind was still racing.
I thought after sitting in silence for 20 minutes all that nonsense was supposed to go away - what did I do wrong here?
A full minute or two had passed while I thought about what happened in my session and what I might have messed up. From experience, when I sit for at least twenty-minutes my mind and body usually slow down and I feel restored. Today was different, but why?
Before I stood up to finish getting ready for the day, it suddenly hit me!
I did indeed make not one but two mistakes during my meditation session this morning.
First and foremost, I made assumptions! I know intellectually that not every meditation session is going to make me feel relaxed but based on my own personal history, it had in the past. So, without knowing it, I expected today’s meditation to relax my mind and my body per usual.
Of course, as the meditation session pressed on and I still couldn’t relax this gap between my expectations and the reality of how I was feeling led to anxiety. I wasn’t “supposed” to feel this way!
As it normally goes, the more I tried to relax, the more difficult it became. The harder I tried to feel my emotions and see my thoughts, the more obscure they seemed to me.
Here’s what happened: I forgot about this amazing formula that illustrates how we set ourselves up for displeasure when we make assumptions and expect things to go our way.
EXPECTATIONS – REALITY = HAPPINESS
The second mistake I made was directly caused by the first mistake. Because I expected the session to be relaxing I resisted what was—i.e. my anxious emotions and racing mind.
Had I approached my meditation with no expectations I might have actually been able to relax. Instead, I fought with myself the entire way. Even when the meditation was over I fought the feeling of unease and before I knew it, I was beating myself up for having a tough session.
Ultimately, I wanted to be in one place (e.g. a state of mind or a state of emotional balance) but I was in another place. The gap between where I wanted to be and where I was made me almost defensive in my approach to the meditation. As if I thought I could “will” my way into a relaxing experience.
By now I hope you can see the foolishness in approaching a meditation practice this way. The only thing you do when you make assumptions is set yourself up for resistance. As we know, resistance to what is is one of our most predominant sources of suffering in life.
Had I set the intention to see my mind and body for what it was, without judgement and expectations, I have no doubt I would have been able to enjoy my meditation this morning. Had I stopped resisting the tightness in my belly and my labored breath, I’m sure my body would have naturally relaxed.
This is the point of meditation, people!
When you sit for a meditation session, don’t expect to feel a certain way. Instead, see what’s there and accept whatever arises. If you’re tense, that’s okay, approach the feeling with curiosity and compassion and don’t resist the sensation. If your mind is working on overdrive, that’s okay too. Just watch the mind as it spins one crazy story after another as if you were watching a movie. You might even find that you can’t help but chuckle a little when you see just how silly the mind can be.
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Many Many Blessings!