Anticipation vs. Expectations
In yoga class, as students begin turning their attention inward, noticing their thoughts, feelings, and sensations, I give the suggestion that they also let go of their expectations of what they imagined the class would be like, whether they will like it or not, and whether they will “perform” perfectly. At this point, I often notice a shift in the room as breathing deepens and awareness of what is happening right here and now increases.
Practicing what I preach, this week I’ve been working on the theme of managing my own high expectations in real life.
The month has been chock full of activity and emotions for me.
Two friends passed away and I was shocked and saddened, feeling their absence and realizing the transitory reality of life.
A week ago we hosted a large holiday party benefitting my daughter’s dance school and felt the warmth of being surrounded by lively community, bright spirits, and excited children.
Three days later my family and I boarded an early morning flight to NYC for the Bar Mitzvah celebration of my dear friend Shari’s son.
I’m on my way home now, Sunday evening, writing this blog from the JFK airport where our flight is delayed 4 hours.
Before the holiday party, I was feeling overwhelmed about how the party would turn out, packing for our trip, and making it to the end of our NY adventure without something going wrong, one of us catching the flu, or simply running out of energy.
I called my wise friend, a long time yogi and meditator who knows her own boundaries and isn’t afraid to set them.
“You want to know my mantra for when things get crazy like this?” she asked. I agreed, expecting something from the yogic teachings.
Her advice? “LOWER. YOUR. EXPECTATIONS.”
I laughed out loud at the phrase, so opposite to what we hear in popular culture, with its emphasis on high standards, positive thinking, working hard, and manifesting your dream. And I laughed with recognition at how out of whack my expectations had become. In theory everything was possible, yet events would inevitably unfold beyond my control, just as they always do.
As a cancer survivor, I’ve had a lot of practice with events unfolding beyond my control. I’ve had to learn over and over to release my emotional attachment to the OUTCOME looking a certain way in order for me to feel successful or happy in this moment. Instead of focusing on outcome, I can choose to focus on the PROCESS, and by that I mean the moment to moment interactions with others and my awareness of my inner experience.
The process also includes maintaining my commitment to showing up and being as present mentally, emotionally and spiritually as I can be. Being truly present means I can see, hear, and sense the actual REALITY of the situation, not just a mental fantasy about how things COULD or SHOULD look or be.
To have a chance at enjoying the moments, I needed to let go of my VERY strong personal attachment to things working out just exactly the way I dreamed them up.
When I arrived in NY and had lunch with Shari, I passed on the advice about lowered expectations. She laughed as well. Her mind was on overdrive, trying to remember every detail and manage everyone else’s experience.
After the amazing party on Saturday night, when we were having brunch and talking about how fun it all was, I heard her share the mantra that helped her be happy with things exactly as they were. She said, “I just kept telling myself: “lower your expectations.”