Lesson 4: (no) expectations
The funny thing about doing a mindfulness course such as this is that you realize just how conditioned we actually are. Well, perhaps I should I speak for myself…: How condition I am. Conditioned to achieve results. To do something with a clear end goal. That’s the attitude I had when I signed myself up for a typing course once, with the aim of being able to touch type and with ten fingers. And when I followed a course in Spanish so that I could make myself understood during my travels through South America. And when I took out a membership at the sports school because my stomach muscles needed toning and I wanted to feel fitter overall. What’s so lovely about such courses and activities is that you notice the results pretty quickly. Before you know it, you’re typing your CV without any mistakes and with your eyes closed, you can reserve a hotel room in Spanish, and you’re walking around crippled with muscle pain… The result of your efforts: you feel a sense of satisfaction.
Deep down, therefore, I naturally embarked on this eight-week mindfulness course with certain expectations. The words of a friend (who had done the same course several years ago) kept going round my head: “I really noticed a difference after five weeks.” And so, during the fourth lesson, a slight sense of panic washed over me. I had one more week to—just like my friend—feel the effects of all my efforts (the meetings, the body scans, the sitting meditations, the yoga at home…). But I honestly didn’t feel any effects worth noting and I didn’t even know exactly what kind of effect or difference I could expect. Because this kind of training is so incredibly different from all the other courses and classes I’ve followed in the past. There are no exams, diplomas or compliments from the teacher. She even emphasized—yet again—that there is no right or wrong in mindfulness. That you mustn’t have any set expectations. It’s like plants that grow from seed: you sow the seed, you water it and then you wait. Wait until something appears.
So, halfway through the course, this is the advice: Keep on watering yourself and wait. Have faith that something will happen to you. It’s just that you never know when and in what manner that will be, because it differs with everyone. After this session, we were sent home with the assignment to award ourselves with something beautiful in the coming week. I couldn’t think of anything right there and then. But now I know what it is: Let the perfectionist go—I don’t need to get any high grades or to see any fantastic results.
It might just prove to be the best course of my life.
Alice is Managing Editor of Flow International and the Flow Specials.