Sunday, October 18, 2009

Letting Go of Expectations and Being Present

I came in to IMC this morning, determined to sit absolutely still for the whole 45'. A first for me! I was not going to indulge any itches, or aches. Knowing I only had one chance to get my posture right, I took great care to adjust pillow behind my back, and to plant buttocks and feet precisely where my body felt happiest. Eyelids closed, I oriented myself in the semi-darkness. Attention on breath, soon drawn to sound of newcomers whispering. Exasperation, thought of standing up and asking them to please shut up. No, I need to take everything in. It is part of now. Breathing, I am concentrating on the breath, while hearing noises from more people quietly taking their seat. Woman next to me is sniffling, a lot. She has a cold, I realize, and is trying her best to be quiet nevertheless. Labored breathing and coughing fits from her are more compelling than my own breath. Thinking she will leave room maybe, if coughing gets to be too much. Feeling ashamed for holding such unkind thoughts. Back to the breath. Awareness of neighbor supersedes, again. Even when the woman is quiet, I start anticipating her next cough. Anxiety. Aversion about situation. This sitting is not going as I wish. Clinging to idea of quiet sitting. Thoughts about last night's sitting, and deja vu feeling. Expectations. I am falling victim to my expectations, of what sitting is supposed to be. Bell rings. Gil starts his talk about equanimity.

I realize one of my big hindrances are all the preconceived ideas, and expectations I have about how life should unfold. In this case, sitting. 99% of the battle is in being conscious of those expectations, and I can't think of any better occasion than meditation practice. Today, I make promise to myself, that I will get clear on, and let go of, my ideas about 'perfect' sitting. There is no such thing anyway.


  1. Are you talking to me???

    Boy, talk about a post resonating with my practice. As you know, I am really goal driven. The notion that awakening/realization/kensho is within our grasp if we just practice well is too enticing. But I too am coming around to thinking that my expectations are hindering my progress.

    And so I hereby take the pledge.

    Started this morning, actually, and it sure is difficult letting go of expectations. I am trying to note, when I get sidetracked in thought, expectation-related thoughts versus just "thinking" to drive the point home in my thick skull. We'll see how that works.

  2. Tom, this is such an important awareness you have! I am happy for you, and I am even happier if anything I wrote here, helped make realization even more clear . . . :)

  3. Like "all of this", intellectually knowing and experientially doing are vastly different. The meditation instructions are simple, aren't they? But what a freak show it turns out to be.

    Let's see how we are each doing a week from now.)