One of the recurring themes in my classes, whether they are meditation or asana yoga, is the fact that we have expectations about how the practice should be. Expectations of form (of the physical matter) in space of the positions, expectations of reaching forms of mental emptiness or at least peace in meditation. Expectations to bring a part of the body into a certain position (“it has to be like so to be correct”) or to eliminate any rumination of the mind.
We all live in a world where our goals create ideas, images and objectives . Some of these projections have been passed on almost unconsciously at the cultural, family and societal level. These are very deep conditionings, as they are sometimes called, of which only a few of us are aware because. The seeds of conditioning are deeply rooted in us from an early age.
Other expectations are, however, created by our own minds on the basis of our experience and that in which we tend to or want to believe. Others are expectations that respond to real needs or to the idea we have about society. We use it to “escape” from what is here now because, perhaps, what we see now requires an activity, a change and a process (to be started, which can be difficult and painful).
Expectations gradually create an “ideal self” of how one should be and live. And the further reality moves away from this ideal self, the more we feel unhappy and unsatisfied. It is a vicious circle, the more unhappy we are, the more the ideal self moves away.
In one way or another, we are all victims of expectations, projected ideal images and identities in which we believe. In his meditations, my teacher Zen Michael Stone often repeated the mantra of the need to soften in order to detach oneself from what we thought meditation should be to leave room for what it really is. “And it’s nothing spectacular, nothing really happens”, he told us with a hint of a smile. The more we are attentive to this process, the more we realize that projections of how “things should be” invade our whole life, from the mat, to the bed, to the table, to the desk.
The purpose of asana yoga practice is to be free and to become happy. But be careful, not happy like in a Hollywood movie, but happy in the sense of satisfied and present in the here and now. Yet here too we also create “bucket lists”, lists of milestones to be reached, in which we firmly believe as if they were pills of happiness to be collected on the way. We are all in the same boat, I too, when I teach yoga I have expectations towards my students, I want to satisfy them and I am happy if I can see progress.
I believe that we need persistence, openness but also honesty. And it is thanks to these qualities that our practice will really give us freedom and space. It is a long and hard process. The fact of observing oneself, of seeing the reactions to planted seeds that create expectations, is an important first step.
Don’t give up the practice!