May 6, 2012   |   18 Comments


Some thoughts on some of the most basic misconceptions and nutty side trips we all make when it comes to meditation We can’t hear these things too many times.

And now, without further ado, please do not:

* Think you’re supposed to stop thinking.
* Commit to meditating every single day for the rest of your life.
* Imagine that meditation will make you into a more peaceful person.

The video above explains it all!

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s blog post: “Do!”

If you want support for your meditation practice, please sign up for the Open Heart Project.


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  • Posted by:  Nick

    Thanks susan….people of every guilt-riddled culture need to hear this. Another reason I like Mipham Rinpoche statement in turning the mind “Ten minutes good, 30 min. Excellent. A flash of insight can go a lot longet than task master style guilt. Sure religious asoects take longer but that may or may not happen for my mom who just wants to lower her bloodpressure and not do a fire puja. To her Puja is a lovely Indian girl I went to school with! Besides she is such a natural bodhisattva as to be stunning in her generousity. Great work susan, as per usual
    happiness and its causes to us all

  • Posted by:  Karen

    Hello Susan, Thank you for your posts. I look forward to receiving your emails, it feels like a friend is dropping by. You have helped me tremendously to begin a meditation practice. However, I am still confused by the reasons to meditate. I always thought that the purpose of meditation is to calm the anxious mind and to ultimately become a more peaceful person. If these are not the goals, why am I meditating? Is it wrong to have expectations of a meditation practice? I know that you have explained this, but I am still confused. I am going through a rough time in my life and had hoped that meditation would help me achieve clarity and direction. I now think that I am misguided and am expecting too much from meditation. If you have the time to offer any additional insights, it would be much appreciated. Thank you…

    • Posted by:  Susan

      Karen, I can understand the confusion. Meditation does indeed help you become more peaceful–but if we begin our practice with an agenda (even to become more peaceful), it seems to hamper the process. It is a practice of getting to know ourselves, including those times when we are peaceful and those times when we are not. So it’s not wrong to expect to become more peaceful, but it’s best to let go of expectations and observe the practice as it unfolds. I hope t his hasn’t created more confusion! Do let me know.

      Ultimately, meditation creates the ground of wakefulness or enlightenment. As such, it is impossible to expect too much of it. Still, expectations are best held extremely lightly.

      I truly hope the rough times in your life will smooth out. xo Susan

      If others have any comments on this very important point, feel free!

  • Posted by:  Barbara

    So excited for what is to come. The OHP makes me so happy!! Love all that happens and now delighted for more. Thank you Susan.


    • Posted by:  Susan

      Wonderful, glad to hear it Barbara!

  • Posted by:  Kate

    Hi Susan, thank you so much for these posts. I do meditate on my own most mornings but it’s nice to do another session with you as well. I can attest that regular meditation is so valuable. It’s my daily meds for sure! Thank you for your wonderful teaching & mentoring. Have a great day!

    • Posted by:  Susan

      Thank you, and you too, Kate!

  • Posted by:  Gauri

    My question was very similar to Karen’s! I know meditation won’t necessarily make me more “peaceful” but instead more aware of my thoughts and emotions. Still, I’m also going through a difficult period, and like many I was drawn to meditation because of this, looking for a sense of peace, clarity, and deeper knowledge. So I’m also struggling with the idea that I know I shouldn’t meditate with expectations, but I can’t help but have them (because why else would I be doing this).. and it feels counter intuitive. The disappointment/confusion that results makes me wonder if there isn’t something else I should be doing to achieve these results instead (i.e., training for a marathon, becoming a social butterfly, taking up knitting…)?

    • Posted by:  Susan

      This is such an important point. While it’s helpful (i.e. more peaceful) to let go of expectations, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care or hope for peace. Of course you do! I hope for it for you!

      Paradoxically, peace, clarity, and deeper knowledge seem to arise as we relax our agenda.

      This doesn’t mean we should not have a very clear idea of what we’re doing when we practice and why. The technique should be precise. We could acknowledge our hopes and frustrations about the practice and keep an eye on both. We could have a clear intention to cultivate compassion, wisdom, and power–the three qualities of the awakened mind. That is very important.

      After 15+ years of meditation, I see that many, many things have come about because of my practice. I feel more fearless and more tender. I am more creative. My heart is more open. I am much more confident and genuine. However, I can’t trace any of this to any particular moment on the cushion. Practice is deep, boring, loving, peaceful, and sometimes seems like a crock. Nothing special seems to happen on the cushion, but when I look at my life, I see that everything has changed. Somehow, this very simple (but not easy) technique of letting go and coming back to breath has all of this tremendous power. When I try to intercede with my ideas of what “should” be happening on the cushion, the magic kind of fades. Go figure.

      In the meantime, we should all train for a marathon, become social butterflies, learn to knit, and do any and everything we can to find peace, clarity, and knowledge. Meditation is just one way, but it can really be foundation of the whole search.


      Loving this conversation. Thank you.

  • Posted by:  Sam

    Agreed, letting go of expectations has been one of the keys to exploring my consciousness. And although I did meditate everyday – this is a habit and not a goal. If something prevents me from practicing, I accept this and move on.
    I’ve been immensely enjoying the Dharma talks and practices and looking forward the new OHP material.
    I sincerely thank you Susan.

    • Posted by:  Susan

      Thanks for the comment Sam and I’m glad to know we’re practicing together.

  • Posted by:  Kathy Willard

    Susan: Can’t wait for what’s coming. Love ALL your posts. Meditation for me at times has been just like everyone’s. Frustrating, thoughts overtaking me about you name it, and there they are. However, as I too have been practicing for a long time now, I actually truly (at times) have no thoughts at all. I think doing my yoga first helps a lot with this, for it is after that I meditate. At such times I just feel clear, just have such an overwhelming feeling of love, feeling of understanding it all. Words do not cut it. Can’t even come close. Other times I am like a Lemur, hoping sideways, brain all jazzed, reacting only with instinct. Still, still I see other changes taking place. Less judgment, far less chaos, heart way more open, but it can close in an instant. That’s when I goof up, lose my footing. Now I make efforts to say to myself, oh oh, here I go again. At times it can feel like I am lost, caught up in some tornado, powerless, and even a feeling of hopelessness. Yet, every single time, and I do mean every single time, when it passes, I see it as having been something so trivial, not worth a thought at all.
    Eckhart Tolle speaks of the pain body in his marvel of a book, A New Earth, so it may have been nothing but a memory being triggered that is still lodged in my being. There has been such incredible good change, such an abscence of negativity that I am guilty of exaggerating things “still” mainly as it feels so foreign now to even have such feelings. So even this is an awareness I did not have before. Yea!!!!
    Love Kathy

    • Posted by:  Susan

      Kathy, this is so incredibly wonderful to read. Inspiring and heartfelt. Thank you, thank you for sharing it. xo S

  • Posted by:  Michael

    Dear Susan, I think many folks suffer from the same confusion, or have the same fundamental questions, about Buddhism and meditation as I am experiencing. Is the point of the practice to ultimately realize that there is no “good” or “bad” in your life, there just “is”? In other words, if I am hoping meditation will make “me” feel better, I’m missing the point because there actually is no individual “me” that needs to feel better? There is just living each moment without preconception, and understanding that a moment is not good or bad, painful or pleasurable, it just “is”?… Michael

    • Posted by:  Susan

      Michael, these are good questions and we all should try to answer them.

      The good news and the bad news is that nobody can answer them but you. There is no doctrinal or academic answer to them.

      The answers are personal and arise from your own innate wisdom. Wisdom arises when the mind relaxes. The mind relaxes in meditation. At least, according to my math.


  • Posted by:  Michael

    Susan, thanks for your response. I feel like it would be easier for me to learn how to do the “side crow” posture in Yoga than to truly understand what is meant by lack of self and interconnectedness! Of course, I am at the very beginning of the journey, and so have plenty of time to look for the necessary wisdom (with your help) down the road…

  • Posted by:  Ian Ritchie

    There is no sound on your “don’t” video. Yes my sound is turned on. Thought you should know.


    • Posted by:  susan

      I played it and it seemed to work. Not sure what’s up!

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