“how long did it take you to feel like you’d made some headway with meditation?” - friend of julia
i love this question, which came via text few weeks ago. when i received it i laughed out loud. that’s right, a literal LOL. OMG.
because my response is two words long: beats me!
who says i’ve made any progress? all i know for sure is hunting for a rate of return on your meditation practice is futile and frustrating. what you “get out of” meditation changes all the time, as i discussed here. sometimes it feels like nothing, other times there’s a lovely, relaxing space between your thoughts afterward.
if you want to go deeper and start a routine, try a meditation class. by default it’ll give you proper technique, fellow practitioners to befriend, and the habit of actually meditating regularly, which is crucial.
i remember chatting with a woman at the end of vipassana. she’s in her late 30s but has been meditating half her life and takes courses all over the world. i was saucer-eyed in front of her, like, “what next, guru? what can i expect?”
she said as you progress in meditation, the challenges become greater but so do the fruits. you reach a point where it’s irrelevant if your leg falls asleep because the “flavor of the fruits,” if you will, moves from physical, to mental, then emotional, and finally to the spiritual realms.
i trust her. and i trust how calm long-term meditators are. you can't fake that forever.
but i also like this question for the undercurrent of expectation it includes.
i struggle a lot with creating expectations, hoping they’ll be met, then feeling shocked, angered, and disappointed when they aren’t. it’s a ridiculous process, probably the mental equivalent of a dog chasing its tail. stop it, already!
in a sense, expectation is a lot like comparison, since it robs us of the present moment and moves the finish line another 10 miles away.
vipassana revealed how automatically i form expectations, so i searched for an antonym of “expectation” to think of when i catch myself jumping ahead. but interestingly, there isn’t an exact opposite. the best i found are these antonyms of “expect": carry on, continue, go, move.
“carry on” is my favorite.
ironically, your best bet for both issues is to continue meditating. over time, meditation will become a tool providing you the awareness to catch yourself forming expectations and the discipline to re-route your thoughts.
here’s a song about carrying on. i think. i really have no idea what kishi bashi is saying but “carry on” is in the title, so it’s probably relevant.
"carry on phenomenon" from the "lighght" album, from joyful noise recordings, via youtube: