Practicing without an agenda is a strategy that yields the best results. It bypasses our expectations and avoids the placebo effect in psychology that produces counterfeit results. Learn how to apply this principle to your spiritual practice.
A common issue in spiritual practice is unreasonable or inaccurate expectations. When we set expectations for our spiritual practice, we create roadblocks. We also miss other significant eureka occurrences because our expectations blind our experience.
Expecting the Unexpected
Our expectations can be good or bad. For example, many people suffer from anxiety attacks before going to the dentist. In this case, their expectations create fear. What we want to happen can also color our experience.
When we explore consciousness, we want to do so with an open mind, expecting the unexpected. (1) Studies show how positive or negative expectations color the outcome. The data shows that the anticipation of any experience will taint perception and distort the outcome.
Negative anticipation, fear, or anxiety is like a blanket that distorts our experience of the event. Positive anticipation also distorts perception, often leading to disappointment even though the participant achieved the desired result. We’ll discuss this phenomenon in a moment under the placebo effect in psychology.
We use surfing as an analogy to explain how to apply this principle. When you surf, you paddle from the shore to deep water and watch for a wave to form. When you find one you think will give you the level of experience you want, you paddle with it and catch it. Then it’s a matter of going with the wave, you want to stay upright and have fun, but you aren’t sure what will happen. The ocean waves can change, and you need to guide your way to keep upright and balanced. You can’t have expectations about what the ocean will do.
Riding on a train is entirely different. You show up at the right time and get in. That’s it; you can expect to reach your destination at a specific time. The experiences of surfing and riding on a train are entirely different. Spiritual exploration is like surfing, not taking a train ride.
A wise teacher will instruct the processes but not tell you what to expect. Then, they ask many questions about your practice because they know everyone is different.
Spiritual practice is not about perfection. Everyone’s experience of spiritual exploration is different. If you are developing and walking your path, be proud of yourself. You are doing it well! Will you make mistakes? Yes, but that is part of the learning process and lesson.
It’s a “best practice” applied to almost every spiritual method. Some believe it is an excellent approach to life. Learn to explore without an agenda and live in the moment. This mindset helps to keep us present.
Here are just some benefits of practicing without an agenda or expectations.
First, it minimizes your anxiety over what is going on. Many people worry about doing it right. If you are engaging in the process to the best of your ability, that’s doing it right. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Second, pay attention and be in the moment; it will help you spot the lessons and roadblocks. Third, practicing without expectations will help you recognize more synchronicities and omens. These guideposts are clues to your personal development.
“The most significant eureka occurrences come when you learn to explore without an agenda. Anxiety overreaching a preconceived experience will keep you from finding it. So, allow your practice to be easy and without expectation. Then, you will be more likely to have an authentic experience.” — Guru Tua
Seek out a positive learning environment that supports the development of your practice. The right learning platform will encourage spiritual freedom and investigation. Beware. You won’t find spiritual freedom in the regiment of Western organized religion. These religions are systems of indoctrination and brainwashing, which create boundaries to real learning.
Guess what? You probably miss most of your significant growth unless you use a spiritual journal. A handwritten journal or book of shadows is a simple but effective device that will help you see incremental change and spot trends and roadblocks. A spiritual journal is the first tool for your spiritual toolbox. You’ll create several, and they will come in handy.
Using a spiritual journal will open your eyes to the subtle eureka occurrences of incremental growth. We all long for those mind-blowing jumps of awakening, but it is a gradual process most of the time. Use a spiritual journal to set a solid foundation for your practice.
The Placebo Effect In Psychology
The placebo effect (2) is the perceived benefit of something even though what was administered has no substance. The mind mimics the positive effect tricking the recipient into believing that a substance or process accomplished the desired outcome.
The term placebo was first used by Henry K. Beecher (3) in his 1955 paper The Powerful Placebo. He used a look-alike treatment to see if the real treatment worked. He determined that 35% given the placebo reported the same effect as those given the real treatment. These results underscore the reason why eliminating expectations is so important.
This phenomenon also explains why the mythology and superstition of organized religion are such a powerful force. The expectations of supernatural experiences are an undercurrent of these systems. The programming is reinforced with continual indoctrination using groupthink manipulation tactics. It is no wonder that believers are convinced of leg-growing miracles and other sleight-of-hand tricks.
It’s equally important to understand the difference between expectations and hope. An expectation is a “strong belief” that something will happen or be the case in the future. Hope is the feelings and desire for certain things to happen. It seems like the same thing but looks more carefully at the source.
Expectations are beliefs, and beliefs are thoughts about something. Hope is an emotional feeling about something positive. Expectations are programmed thoughts. Hope is a heart-based emotion. Our heart can drive expectations which is the case in the survivor’s mindset. Or our expectations can drive the heart, as in the case of the placebo effect.
Group and self-hypnosis techniques of religious indoctrination are programming tools to drive expectations; thus, we get the placebo effect in the emotional display of religious ceremonial activities like “falling under the spirit and talking in tongues.” The placebo effect in psychology helps us understand why people think these experiences are real.
Learn To Explore Without An Agenda
Practicing without expectations doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals. Everyone should have plans for their spiritual path. For example, developing a well-rounded practice is a goal we hope everyone will adopt. Perhaps the Enneagram Personality Profile is something you want to learn. An objective might be to read books by three authors on the subject by the end of the year. It doesn’t mean setting a goal of being enlightened in 90 days.
At the same time, apply the tools honestly and trust the results. Our plans and desires can get in the way. When we answer the questions in the enneagram questionnaire, we must be honest with the answers. Otherwise, we will skew the results and create an inaccurate profile leading to incorrect results that don’t reflect our true personality or instinctual stack.
Maybe you want to learn Japa meditation, so you set a goal to research possible teachers. Perhaps topics like the virtues of the spirit or spiritual gifts are interesting. Here, you make lists of potential sources. Finding your “personal truth” may be among the primary purposes of your practice. So, you research the viable ways you can reach these realistic goals.
Use your intellect and intuition as your guides to design a unique spiritual path. Explore this opportunity we call life. It’s all about awakening and developing our potential. Being open to new ideas and happy accidents, expecting the unexpected, and practicing without an agenda are the traits of a healthy spiritual explorer’s mindset.
Consciousness Development Tools
Focus your goals on finding tools that develop your potential. Don’t get sidetracked into becoming a follower. Don’t follow a religion. Don’t follow any teacher that bates you with unrealistic achievements.
The observer, the person who experiences your life, is not limited by space or time. It is our source. So, a good first goal is to connect with this source, the 4th state of consciousness, pure awareness. We recommend Japa Meditation or this technique’s more commercially available form, Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Connecting with the source of our being enables us to access our spiritual gifts. When we do this, we begin the process of awakening. These gifts teach us to explore without an agenda. We don’t know what to expect; it’s like the analogy of Forest Gump. Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what to expect. Expecting the unexpected means we live life with an open mind.
Several tools can assist us in our spiritual quest; we call them spiritual technologies. We group them into four categories.
If you can follow a process, you can use these tools. They do not depend upon the belief in any religion.
Practicing Without an Agenda
The placebo effect in psychology helps us understand how religions use fear and anxiety to keep us from using the tools that will effect change. So, learning to practice life and explore without an agenda will make life more pleasurable. Be like Forest Gump, always expecting the unexpected.