Horror, a new short story

You are invited to check out my new short story, available for free reading online at:

When Squares and Circles Meet: What to Expect of Your Meditation

circlesandsquares1Meditation and expectations don’t seem like two terms that usually go hand in hand. Yet, borrowing a saying from elsewhere, I can state that the population of meditation practitioners is divided into two groups: those who sit to meditate with expectations, and those who lie about it.
For many years I have been told that meditation is composed of sitting quietly, clearing your mind and expecting…. nothing.
How noble. This idea goes so well with never passing judgment on other people, never hurting a fly, and, all in all, being utterly a saint. Though no doubt a wonderful and worthy aspiration, maybe a handful of people throughout human history were of such nature. For the bulk of us, real humans, when aspiration becomes a set of rules, the best of intention turns into an obstacle.
Think about it: even the mere idea of sitting to meditate without having any expectation, is already, by itself, an expectation… It is a setup for failure.

So let’s be a little more realistic. We are human, we expect. It’s in our nature. When the sun is shining bright, we expect it to be warm outside, even in winter when the large outdoor thermometer shows it’s 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius.) When we see a good looking pastry at the bakery store window, we expect it to taste delicious, even if it’s all coating and there’s no substance underneath; and when we sit to meditate, we have expectations. Some of us expect to feel relaxed, relieved of our daily stress, find a balance; others expect to get enlightened or, at least, see the “light”. Expectations are many and vary individually. Some may expect to see how all things in nature are connected, yet others hope a good meditation session may resolve some personal issues from their past.
“Meditate on this I will,” said Yoda of Star Wars; “this” is a subject matter, and Yoda’s meditation had a purpose. Don’t argue with Yoda.

In the following post I am going to briefly present three different, unrelated, ideas and concepts, and then tie them together.
You can expect to have a better understating of meditation and expectations by the time we are all done.

1. Circles and Squares: Imagine that since childhood you were told that love is a square. This idea had been implanted in your mind through everything you read, watch and discuss. Love is when A, B, C, and D happen; it is a square. You spend the rest of your adult life searching for your matching square. On occasion you think you have found it but, alas, it’s not a real square. It’s a triangle. Little do you know that meanwhile, passing you by, are dozens of circles, and that your true love is actually not a square but a circle. Yet you never even glance in their direction; after all, you are highly focused on looking for squares, and not just any square, your square, whatever that is you don’t even know.
2. Force and Resistance: An integral part of the art and philosophy of Tai Chi is the idea that rather than fight force with force, one learns to divert an opposing force and turn it to his advantage. You can imagine this as a ball being punched dead-center. As a result, the ball is likely to fly a distance from the offensive force. Us being the ball, is how we usually respond to force inflicted upon us – resist and being pushed back. Now imagine that as the offensive force strikes, you, the ball quickly moves a little off center. The force hits the side of the ball and rather than push it, causes the ball to rotate around its center in a circular movement. Thus, rather than resist the incoming strike, suffer pain or else need to use a lot of force to counter it, you move off center, causing the offensive force to get off-balance, and find a way to use their energy to strike back utilizing the opposite arm. (If all this sounds too complicated, just let it be for now. The essence of this is that rather than resist, there are other ways of tackling a force, and this is the concept we will use in a little while.)
3. Observation: what all meditation schools agree, is that observation is central to any sort of meditation technique. It is the art of being watchful and attentive, preferably without commentary, of what happens.

Let’s inspect how these three ideas can be applied onto meditation with respect to expectations:
1. Circles and Squares: If you acknowledge that each person has their own very individual experience, it means you are free from pre-conceptions and most rules, and can break the mold. You no longer look for squares, you don’t even look for circles as you don’t yet know you shape you are; you simply search, by trial and error, you search. They told you that in order to meditate you need to sit down? Try to meditate standing up or walking; try swimming. They instructed you to meditate in silence? Try music: soft music, loud, obnoxious music. And don’t rush to judgment. Try it for a little while – sometimes revelations happen over time, sometimes through some struggle. They told you to clear your mind of expectations? Try acknowledging you are expecting, don’t fight it – acknowledge it. Let’s use an example: say you are expecting to feel more relaxed after you meditate. That brings us to the next point:
2. Using that idea from Tai Chi, that when one encounters force, rather than resist try to go with it; rather than fight having expectations, we are going to go with it and explore. Back to the example: if I expect to be relaxed, let me explore what relax mean to me. A little more about this in a moment:
3. Use observation. That remains a principle we want to use. It is a key.

So back to our example: we felt tense, we sat down to meditate and in the back of our mind there is a hope that we will feel a little more relaxed after we meditate. Usually we will write that off and feel bad for having that expectation to start with. Writing it off does not mean it goes away, on the contrary – it’s still there, we just ignore it. And ignoring it we get distracted in our meditation. But since we are being brave, we break formulas and molds, we try new things; we acknowledge that we expect to feel relaxed. We don’t fight it. We let that expectation be. And we observe. What does relaxation mean to me? Well, I know that when I am relaxed, tension leaves my face. Let me smile a tiny bit as I know that when I smile my face relaxes. I know that being relaxed means that my breathing becomes deeper and fuller. Let me focus on that for a moment. I know that when I relax, I can more easily keep my closed eyes focused between my eyebrows, and so forth. I acknowledge my expectations and observe, and as I do, it’s possible that my expectations will come true. And when that happens, maybe some other things will happen as well – some things I may have expected, some things I did not expect, and some things I didn’t even know exist. But because I am relaxed and didn’t fight my expectations, because I am in an observer set of mind, I start to note things I could not have noticed before.

But watch out. If you do this and you are successful, you have now created a new expectation… We tend to constantly create rules and formulas for success. That is okay – it’s part of the way we learn. Yet, our experiences changes from day to day, from moment to moment; whatever worked for us today may not work for us tomorrow. Keep on trying, changing. If you find something that worked well for you and are content with it, you may never discover the next experience. After all, there is much more out there than just circles and squares.