I always advise people to meditate without a goal, without expectation. This can be difficult to do initially since this type of behavior usually comes about after you meditate for a while. So if you meditate for no reason, you’ll acquire a skill that will enable you to meditate for no reason. This is where the absurdity of Zen stems from. It’s a beautiful thing.
Regardless of your expectations, meditation will change you. It’s a revolutionary act, really. It will change you precisely because you will grow accustomed to not needing to get anything out of it. You’ll divorce your expectations from reality and simple experience it. You can simply be. Once you learn to simply be while meditating, it becomes easier to simply be in day-to-day life. That’s where these changes come in. They’re fun to think about, but don’t get too attached to what you get out of meditation. That’s not what Zen is about.
You’ll think less about results.
A good place to start. Think about how much of our lives we spend expecting this and that. We have fantasies, hopes, and dreams. These words have positive connotations but they ruin peoples’ lives! Our fantasies, hopes, and dreams prevent us from living in the moment. Life in the moment is always the be-all-end-all; even if you achieve all of your wildest dreams, you still have to exist in the moment. Your ability to be in the moment doesn’t change, no matter how much life aligns to your expectations, no matter how well your goals overlap with your reality.
Meditation teaches us to think less about results. We enjoy the means rather than making ourselves miserable over the ends. We can sit back and enjoy the ride rather than over-concerning ourselves with what the destination is going to look like. As the saying goes, “the journey is the destination,” and, “the obstacle is the path.”
You’ll stop viewing the world in opposites.
Meditation helps us shed our dualism. The aforementioned obsessing over the future comes from obsessing over the past. We pit concepts against each other in a simplistic manner and wonder why our minds are so chaotic, why we feel unhappy. We feel unhappy because we view the world in opposites. We vacillate between jubilance and depression like two fat kids aggressively riding a see-saw. Human history is a history of warring concepts. These warring concepts begin in our own minds, as individuals. If we can individually train ourselves to transcend dualism and view the world simply as it is, rather than trying to categorize everything, we can find a certain peace. Meditation encourages this transcendence. We see the absurdity of our thoughts, and our thoughts rearrange themselves.
You’ll gain self-control and discipline.
Most of us live with our egos at the wheel, while we ride hopelessly next to it in a sidecar. We can watch it veer and swerve but are unable to actually commandeer the wheel. The ego rules the modern world. People aren’t truly in control of their own impulses. When the ego rules your life, you become egotistical. You become proud, stuck-up, and easily offended. You become culturally pretentious. You obsess over materiality.
Meditation, initially, holds the ego hostage. It says, “Listen, ego— I’ve had enough of your nonsense. I’m ready to move on and live my own life.” The ego says, “Damn. No!” It resists. But only initially. Over time, meditation helps you build discipline. This occurs as the ego learns its place. It does have a place. It can exist in the periphery, helping us make certain decisions. But the healthy moderated ego is not the ego that most modern people are working with. Meditation helps us access the healthy ego and shed the crude, destructive one.
You’ll be more patient.
As the ego fades away, we realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us. We’re each, as Alan Watts said, a piece of the universe. We’re part of its fabric. But we’re not Gods and we’re not dirt; we just are. We exist in between the balance of ultimate importance and utter meaninglessness. These thoughts come to the forefront in meditation, as we confront the loud chaotic mind with quietude. We become more patient, because we learn to be patient with our own minds.
You’ll love yourself more.
When we’ve never looked into ourselves and we hear the words “self love” we think egotistical pride. Self love is different. It’s a certain peace and acceptance of who we are. The ego experiences its own twisted version of self love in which it loves its idea of itself, an idea not rooted in reality but in vanity. The dissonance between who we are and who the ego wants us to be makes us feel stressed and depressed. But once we move past this a bit, we come to see that what exists alongside the ego is the self we’ve always been, the constant self. It’s a self worth loving because it doesn’t ask anything from it. It simply is.
Once we get in tune with this “mere existence” aspect of meditation, we begin to love ourselves more for who we are. That doesn’t mean continuing to live destructively or laud ourselves for our bad behavior. It means realizing that no amount of bad behavior can change the fundamental peace of the true self. The ego tells us to hide behind actions; the true self simply tells us to chill out and accept what is.