In the normal waking state we do things. We get stuff done. We try to be efficient and productive. That’s good. When we are organized and motivated we make our world a little better. We make the whole world a little better. Those are great goals. It's a great way to approach life.
Meditation is not that. Meditation is not against that. Meditation is a respite from that.
As you prepare to meditate and you take a comfortable posture in your seat, there is no goal other than to be comfortable. When you choose your word to help you focus your awareness on your breath, it is solely to assist you. You can’t do that wrong. If your awareness drifts and you find yourself thinking, just bring your awareness back to your breath.
If you strive, if you try to reach a certain level, to find stillness, to not move a micro amount as you sit, then you are pushing. That will take you right out of a still state.
You have to let go, and then let go of letting go. You are focusing on sitting and breathing. Period.
(Click on the picture below for a free download of guided meditations.)
Now, yes, your entire inner life might will change if you meditate regularly. Probably your health will improve. Your mind will be sharper. You’ll be slower to anger. You will probably be able to feel more deeply because it will no longer frighten you. Your sleep will improve. Your awareness will sharpen and you will become more effortlessly mindful. There is ample research that verifies many beneficial outcomes of meditating.
All of that can happen…unless those things are your goal, then none of it will happen because you won’t be sitting still and focusing on your breath.
It’s actually hard to write about it because it is beyond words. What comes in meditation practice is pure awareness. Pure awareness is literally indescribable. If you are looking for it, well, that’s not pure awareness. That is looking.
I do have goal being able to sit and tap into something greater than myself. I often study with people who help me open my heart just by sitting with them, listening to them, talking to them.
One time I was chanting with Krishna Das at Inner Harmony in the mountains of Utah and he, I paraphrase, said that his goal was to have his heart open all the way, all the time. I often ponder that. I ran that by him again last year and he reminded me that it is a goal. (And that open heart does not always feel good by the way. The heart contains everything.)
Anyway, having goals related to becoming a better person is just fine. But while you sit in meditation: no goal. No striving. No judging. No trying to draw close to anything. No looking. Not even any peeking.
It isn’t that it is wrong to have a goal as you sit. It is counterproductive. That striving pulls you away from pure focus and awareness. Striving to not strive does the same thing.
Just sit and breathe.