I recently was at a party and we were discussing the latest films in theatres. I was really excited to hear about Avatar and Up in the Air, I had not yet seen either movie but was looking forward to. One guest spoke very highly of both films and my eagerness to see them was ignited. But then another guest reported that he was disappointed in Avatar, and further disappointed in Up In the Air for many and various reasons…and then began to discuss his disappointment with some other films new on release. I was a bit disheartened, until a woman in the room, known for her forthrightness, bellowed out “maybe the problem is your expectations”. Ah…and the glimmer of an idea began to form…

If I recall correctly it was Dr Phil who once said that the primary source of our anger is not having our expectations met. Even when we get more or better then what we expect, we experience conflict.   Maybe you didn’t expect it to rain on your wedding day. Or you didn’t expect such a big tax return this year. Or, you didn’t expect that traffic jam that caused you to be late for work, but there you are, stuck on the freeway – what are you going to do? We certainly didn’t expect the GFC, the earthquake in Haiti, and the myriad other accidents, surprises and turnarounds in our lives. But, isn’t it a natural law that the only thing that is constant is change?
And the fact is that, things rarely turn out the way we expect. So, why do we keep expecting?
My yoga practice has taught me a lot about expectation. I have had to learn not to expect my body to show up in the same way today as it did yesterday, because it so often won’t. I have had to let go of “achievement” and “attainment”, as both ideas do not take into account the real nature of growth.   I have had to let go of the expectation that my progress in yoga will be linear and measureable, because it just doesn’t work that way. So, to avoid conflict and suffering in my practice I can only aim for a practice that is spacious and dynamic and consistent, but be ready to accept whatever comes. Any expectation that I bring to the practice will generally lead to conflict, disappointment, or pain and over time, this leads me away from the mat – to avoid the pain. So, I have learned not to expect, but to experience. To aim, not for achievement, but for depth of practice. And sometimes my experience is sweet, and sometimes it is very ordinary. But, that is Yoga, and that is life.   And what I have discovered on the long and bumpy road to letting go of expectation is that just when you least expect it – you are flying!
In our working lives, our relationships, our investments and our hobbies we are caught in a web of expectation. But, if you think about it, expectation is actually a limitation. It suggests a limited or fixed result, and doesn’t take into consideration possibilities that you haven’t even imagined yet. And really, if you have your focus entirely on your expectations, you might just miss the magic that is right in front of you. So, I’m not saying don’t aim high, don’t set goals…but in the midst of our aiming, can we also know what is here now and present, and let that also be a guide.   You know there is an old Jewish saying, ”man plans and God laughs”.   I ask you to consider how many times have you not gotten what you expected, but in fact you got exactly what you needed?
So, those are my musings for this month. The remainder of this newsletter is made up of a great deal of updates and new courses and opportunities for your study, should your interests draw you there.
I plan them, I visualize them, I hope to share them, but I am learning – as with life – to expect the unexpected.
first published in the Mind Body Messenger newsletter 2010

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