One of the hardest things for us to learn in meditation is that our practice is not about having certain kinds of experiences. The path is not just about having good feelings or attaining some kind of special, blissful state. It’s actually not about having any particular experience at all. Sometimes of course, we do have powerful experiences in meditation. They may bring energy, inspiration, and serve to bolster our faith. We feel like something is happening, that the practice is “working”. And, ultimately, the path is about freedom in any moment regardless of what’s happening in our experience.
True freedom is not about having things be a certain way but about non-clinging in the moment to any state or experience. If we make freedom dependent on having special experiences or achieving some sublime state, we’ll never find a true happiness or freedom because these states don’t last. Conditions are always changing, and when conditions change, we’re back where we started. There’s no real freedom there. Freedom is to be found in our relationship to experience no matter what might be happening in the moment.
We often come to practice with some kind of an agenda, something we want to work on or fix in our lives. We want to get something out of it, something to show for our efforts. Perhaps we’re hoping to find some ease in the face of life’s inevitable ups and downs. Maybe we want to get enlightened. At times we may feel frustrated or dissatisfied: we’re not getting anywhere; we haven’t gotten any calmer or more peaceful. We fall into evaluating, assessing and judging our practice, looking for evidence of progress. Am I doing it right? Am I getting it? Everyone else seems to be getting it. We judge our experience & then judge ourselves based on our perception of that experience. If we notice this happening, a very useful question to ask is: how am I relating to this experience?
It’s also useful to remind ourselves that whatever value we might get from meditation will be the result of what we let go of, abandon, and relinquish. We realize the end of suffering by abandoning the cause of suffering, not by getting to some sublime state of mind – not by getting anything at all.