Tag Archives: expectations

The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

favim.com

favim.com

And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

madripoor.tumblr.com

madripoor.tumblr.com

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No More Drama

These past few days, I’ve been questioning whether I’m holding the belief that good things don’t last. It’s like I dare not presume that it’ll all work out. I’ve been almost expecting things to go wrong.

I certainly don’t want to think this way and I’m afraid that this type of thinking will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But how do I shake such a belief? On the one hand, I’ve managed to become much more positive in many areas of my life. I often go back to the mantra: If one can, everyone can. But I haven’t yet integrated this optimism into all aspects of my life.

As I drive to work today, I tell myself that I’m going to have to shift this. And soon. But how? Do I need to do more tapping and thinking? Should I book in with an energy therapist or a Life Coach?

And then it dawns on me. I don’t have to do anything at all. I just have to stay present. It’s so simple that I might actually have to stop struggling.

What would I do with all the time and energy if I’m not worrying, resisting and analysing? I might have nothing left to write about.

Earlier today, I was speaking to someone about setting up a mindfulness evening. I remarked: “Some people might find the idea of a mindfulness evening boring. We’re so addicted to drama.”

And we are. We get caught up in the highs and lows of life. We love to complain and gossip, fantasise and catastrophise, daydream and reminisce. The thought of sitting in meditation and being present, without constantly narrating or being entertained by our loquacious imaginations, isn’t all that appealing.

My friend told me how beneficial he finds practising mindfulness. He pointed out that the more we sit in meditation, the more automatic mindfulness becomes in our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer such an effort to stay present. It just is. And we just are. He adds:

“And one day, a cup of tea is enough to bring you into total presence.”

I thank him for this beautiful reminder, then go right back to trying to decide what to do tonight. Should I stay in or go to that party? If I go out, will I enjoy it? Will I be too tired at class tomorrow?

I listen to this internal dialogue and bring myself back to the present. I don’t have to decide anything right now. I can see what I feel like doing when it’s time to do it. And I can enjoy this moment because I’m in it.

It really is that easy. No fuss. Just presence.

Well, that was an anti-climax.

unrealitymag.com

unrealitymag.com

Giving Up

This morning, I received some news that I really didn’t want to hear. I felt disappointed, upset, and even a little angry. I also felt foolish for putting myself in this position… again! I should have known this would happen. 

I cried and talked it out with a friend. She assured me that it’s best to find out one way or another sooner rather than later. She suggested that I’m better off without this particular situation in my life.

My friend’s advice made perfect sense. In the past, I’ve often been grateful when certain things were removed from my path (much to my dismay at the time) because they just weren’t right for me and they made room for more amazing things to enter my life.

Yes, I got my hopes up and they’ve been dashed yet again. And yes, it’s tempting to shut myself off in order to protect myself. I’ll never allow this to happen again. I’ll show them! But who suffers then? It would be quite sad to live that way.

Isn’t it better to be open to life and to love? To allow yourself to be vulnerable and to relate to other human beings with honesty and a welcoming heart? To be accessible to all the good stuff that life has to offer?

Of course, I do wind up getting hurt now and again. But it doesn’t affect me as badly any more. And I get over things much quicker. I can see the lessons in everything. I cry and moan, then learn and grow, and move on.

learning

This evening, as I practise yoga, the tears spill down my cheeks. Why am I so upset, I wonder. Am I really that cut up over this particular loss? Or is it because I’m losing hope? Is it because I’m believing thoughts that are laden with always and nevers? Or is it simply because I’m not getting what I want?

It’s probably a combination of all of the above. I got a taste of something that I liked and I want more. Is it okay to want? Or should I just be present with what is? Because this present moment is actually fine.

It is my mind that’s steeping me in sorrow. My thoughts are making me wallow. I’m dwelling on the if-onlys and what-if-I-nevers. And I’m beating myself up for not having moved past all of this when I really thought that I had.

As I complete my yoga sequence in corpse pose, I realise that it’s okay to take action and go after what I desire but it’s the attachment to the outcome that’s causing me to suffer. This attachment will raise me with elation when I perceive that I have what I want and it will fling me into devastation when it’s taken away.

I have to be okay with who I am, where I am, and how I am, no matter what. Right now, I’m feeling beaten down. I don’t have all the answers. And I feel like giving up.

But I know, deep down, that I am not these transient feelings. They are just visiting. However, I can take the time and space to sit with them and allow them to speak to me. I know that I’ll learn from this experience and the emotions that have arisen from it.

I lie here in corpse pose and I give up. I’m not running away from the pain and I’m not running forward to fix it or to feel better. I give up. I give up the need to know what’s going to happen and why. I give up control and expectations. I give up blaming and victimising. I give it all up.

And when I get up, I feel lighter.

thompsonblogs.org

thompsonblogs.org

Life is an Adventure

I am lying on a plinth, receiving an energy treatment from a friend. I close my tired eyes and sink beneath the blanket, enjoying this time and space for rest.

A lot has been going on over the past few weeks. Sometimes I still find myself being sucked into the drama. Then I’m left with a bad feeling that I need to know isn’t mine.

Thoughts flit across my mind, like an overplayed showreel. Things that have happened and imagined scenarios that have not and may never play out.

As my friend works on me, I clear the energy that these thoughts have created. Instead of berating myself for thinking, I recall a piece of advice I heard on Hay House Radio and I say: “You are adorable.” 

This lightens the mood and brings myself love and compassion. I accept the thoughts without attaching to them and they continue to flicker faintly in the background.

I’m soothed by the sound of my friend’s dog sleeping in the corner. I can feel the energy moving. The heat of my busy head is lifted out and away. And in come the insights…

I realise that I want everyone to be well and happy, which is lovely and all, but it’s a heavy burden to put upon myself. If I need everyone to be well and happy then I must be responsible for helping them and fixing their problems. And if I don’t do that, I’m not being a good friend/daughter/niece/therapist.

But it really is none of my business. I have a feeling now that everything is grand. Everyone is on their own journey. I don’t need to dwell on their stuff. I am responsible for me. I can be there for them and still be me and own only what belongs to me.

I am enjoying life. I’m not going to let my thinking about other people stop me from being present and having fun.

IMG_2763

Photo taken by Deirdre Groves

The next insight is about love. I remember an affirmation from Louise Hay and David Kessler’s wonderful book You Can Heal Your Heart: “I don’t have to convince anyone to love me.”

If I’m feeling a lack of love, the only way to remedy that is to give myself that love. So I do.

A question that arises now is around excitement. Should I be feeling this excitement? Or should I dampen it down in an attempt to avoid inevitable disappointment? I know I shouldn’t have expectations but it is nice to enjoy this feeling.

It all comes back to being present, doesn’t it? Of course I can enjoy the feeling. I’m human. I don’t want to shut off emotion completely. I just don’t want it to consume me either, like a wildfire, ravaging everything with its seductive but destructive vermilion tongues.

The energy rises and tingles and swirls. A song builds up in me. My hips start to sway. “Life is an adventure,” the lyrics go. “Life is an adventure. La la la la, woo! La la la la.”

When I get home, I open my diary and see these words by Danielle LaPorte:

“Happiness is power. Happiness is carbonated consciousness. It wants to spill out and radiate and be articulated. And every time we downplay our joy, we confuse our synapses. Happiness-muffling numbs our senses. If you keep it under the surface too long, it just might stay there . . . a light under a bushel. Admit to your contentment so it can grow.”

I asked the question and got the answer within minutes! I embrace happiness. I don’t have to feel guilty for having it in case other people aren’t feeling it too. And I don’t have to be wary of it in case I get hurt. I am living. Life is an adventure. La la la la, woo!

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Mindfulness for the Full Mind

In recent weeks, I’ve been battling against my own reaction to noise. I eventually decided to stop blaming the external and work on my inner peace instead.

Last week, I was so exhausted (from lack of sleep but mainly from my own internal chitchat) that I gave up. And that was when the magic happened. I let go. I surrendered the control that I had been fearfully clasping on to so damn tightly. I recognised that I can’t control my surroundings. But I can be okay with them.

I was too tired to use all the positive tools and techniques that I’d taught myself over the years. So I stopped trying so hard. I simply accepted what was – the noise and how I was feeling.

I also figured out that I often felt anxious before the noise started. I was nervously anticipating when it would begin. Then, I would project into the following day and I’d imagine how tired I’d be. I was so very far removed from the present moment.

healthshire.com

healthshire.com

One word kept entering my mind: Mindfulness. Then, I remembered that I’d seen a workshop advertised a while back. I rooted out the email and, as synchronicity would have it, it was on in a few days’ time. I immediately signed up for it.

The workshop consisted of four hours of meditation, silence and mindful walking. Halfway through the class, I suddenly felt impatient. It was all so slow. Nothing was happening. It was then that I had a deep knowing that this was exactly what I needed – I had to physically slow down and bring my awareness to the present moment (my bodily sensations, my breathing and the sounds around me) in order to slow down the sprinting chatter of my mind.

No wonder I felt restless during this workshop as I had been living such a fast-paced life. Rushing to work. Coaching sessions. Classes. Reading. Cramming weekends with class preparation and assignments, then trying to squeeze in family time, dates and catch-ups with friends.

And even when I did sit down to watch television, whenever the ads came on, I’d check my emails, pop onto Facebook or send a text. I even checked my phone while sitting on the loo (hands up if you’ve done this!)

When I received an energy treatment the other day, I realised just how busy my mind was. I lay there composing emails and imagining conversations I would have. If I could just be present, I wouldn’t have to drain myself with all the mental rehearsing and reliving.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Last night, I woke at 2.30am and could not go back to sleep. So I got up, trudged into the sitting room and switched on the light. The first thing my bleary eyes landed on was a book that had been recommended to me almost a year ago – Mindfulness for Life by Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie.

It was just the right time to start reading this book. Hassed and McKenzie describe mindfulness as “the practice of paying attention.” They say that many people get interested in mindfulness because they want to learn to relax or cope better with stress and anxiety. However, they suggest that this can pose a problem. If we become too preoccupied with the goal of relaxing and destressing, we may become frustrated if the practice doesn’t turn out the way we expect or if we don’t achieve the results as quickly as we want.

Another interesting point they write about is how we try to cling to the bits of life that we like and banish those we don’t. Of course, this is understandable. We are trying to protect ourselves from suffering but this is what exactly what causes suffering.

Hassed and McKenzie write: “To be peaceful and happy we have to accept things that we don’t like when they come, and we have to let go of things that we do like when they go.” 

The only guarantee in life is that nothing is permanent. Not the good stuff, nor the bad. As the old adage accurately predicts: “This too shall pass.”

At five am, I put the book away and became aware of my bed and the feeling of it beneath me. I snuggled into the duvet and breathed deeply. I was aware of my breath and the sound of the rain outside. I was aware of my thoughts and how frequently they whisked me away from the present moment.

It was easy to want to detach from the negative thoughts but what I found challenging was to bring myself into the present when I was lounging in happy memories.

Recently, I had a pleasant experience. Last night, I found myself remembering all the tiny details of that moment. How I felt, what was said, what it all meant. I smiled as I relished reliving the event. However, I was no longer aware of my body, my breathing, the bed or the sounds outside. But why did I need to be mindful when I was clearly enjoying dwelling on certain parts of the past?

I asked myself: Was I truly present when that event was actually occurring? Incredibly, I hadn’t been. A large part of me had been caught up in thoughts, fears and expectations. And now, I was making up for it by reliving every last detail.

From this, I have learned that I need to practice mindfulness now so that I can be fully present in every moment. Then, I will be able to really bask in the pleasure and beauty of life. Practicing mindfulness will also help me to act effectively, with a clear mind, during the challenging times.

Hassed and McKenzie suggest starting with a mindfulness practice of five or ten minutes twice daily – before breakfast and dinner. It is best to sit upright and bring your awareness to the present moment by focussing on your breath, on an image or on the sounds around you.

The idea is that mindfulness can become part of your life, not just in a formal capacity. When you get into your car after work, take a few mindful breaths before you start driving. Wash the dishes mindfully. Brush your teeth mindfully. Eat, walk, and listen to music mindfully. Give your conversation partner the gift of a mindful ear. Conduct your relationships mindfully.

Mindfulness isn’t easy but it is oh so simple. Be present. Because all that exists is now.

be all there

Love, Love, Love

Lately, I’ve been feeling disappointed and annoyed by certain things people have been doing or not doing. Like when someone doesn’t reply to an email. Or when a person is quite cold in a text message or doesn’t wish you luck for a significant event or never enquires as to how your course/work/love life is going.

There are several things I can tell myself:

  • It’s their stuff so don’t take it personally.
  • There could be many reasons as to why they did or didn’t do these things so don’t assume the worst.
  • Let them know how you’re feeling, express yourself with maturity, and ask the right questions.
  • Forget about it.
  • Don’t have expectations so you won’t be let down.
  • Accept these people as they are and stop wanting things to be different.
  • Find other people who are able to give you what you’re looking for.

All of the above are valid and useful. I know all that. But my innocent inner child wants us all to get along. My soul wants to believe in a better world. I wish people could just be nice. I don’t want to feel this way.

As I get ready for bed tonight, I reflect on the type of interactions I have with people who don’t appear as loving as I would like. I realise that, when I find someone particularly cold, I withdraw. I text back without my usual cheeriness and warmth. Perhaps it’s a protective mechanism.

I think some more about the individuals who don’t tend to give out love. I wonder if these people have ever received much love in the first place. How can you give what you don’t understand? And so, all their lives, it’s possible that they never really experience love.

And if I, a mostly warm and affectionate person, withdraw my warmth and affection in reaction to their lack of love-giving, how many others do the same? Perhaps, these people don’t receive much love at all. And so the cycle continues.

I am reminded of a Swedish proverb now: “Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.” And suddenly I am swept back in a memory to a time many years ago…

I am in serious emotional pain. A loved one moves to embrace me. I wince and withdraw. I do not want her affection. I cannot be touched. She reaches forward anyway and holds me. And I break down.

I realise that this was exactly what I needed. I wasn’t loving myself so I believed that I wasn’t worthy of loving. This woman loved me regardless. And so began my journey of self-love.

Tonight, I am deciding not to alter the potency of my love depending on who’s the recipient. The dosage of my love shouldn’t change in correlation with the percentage of the other person’s love. Love is not a currency or a punishment or a condition. Love is free and pure and unconditional.

Dear readers, I am sending you my love tonight. My undiluted, unconditional, brimming, beaming love. I hope you know how loved you are. And I wish you a life full of the joy, comfort and belonging of love.

BUBBLES-HEART-love-2114997-300-300

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“Great” Expectations

As I lie in a spa being oiled and kneaded, my mind is elsewhere. I find myself rating the atmosphere, the decor, and the manner and technique of the masseuse. I compare this experience with others. I shouldn’t be thinking, I think. I should be relaxed. Because I am in a spa, I expect to feel serene. Halfway through the treatment, I decide I’m tired of thinking. I surrender to the music, the heat, the touch…

Afterwards, as I sit in the relaxation room in a white robe and slippers, I get talking to an older lady. She tells me that she wasn’t able to have the hydrotherapy bath because she wouldn’t have been able to get in or out of it. She didn’t have the hot stone massage either because the masseuse was afraid of aggravating her psoriasis. I ask her if she’s disappointed. She says, “No because I had no expectations.” She’d enjoyed the swimming pool, the creams and the foot rub instead.

Expectations are usually a precursor to disappointment, anger and agitation. We get depressed because we think things should be different. We think we should be different. We become annoyed with loved ones because we expect them to behave the way we think they should. We cry on our birthday because it hasn’t lived up to the excitement we threw upon it. We feel let down by Christmas because the dinner tasted better last year; the presents didn’t make us / the children as happy as we’d expected; we’d looked forward to having all the family together but Steve couldn’t make it, Martha didn’t make an effort, and then there was that huge fight…

The movie that has too much hype surrounding it rarely lives up to our expectations. New Year’s Eve is often the worst night of the year. We stay in and we feel sad and alone. We go out and we’ve nobody to kiss at midnight and we’re embracing the toilet bowl. And as for sex… we’ve had better, right? Many women admit to feeling let down by sex (or their partner or even themselves) because they expect nothing less than an orgasm. As a result, they fail to let go enough to enjoy the moment-by-moment pleasure.

When it comes to relationships, expectations are often what hold them together but ultimately what drive them apart. I remember being dumped by a boyfriend and feeling disappointed because I’d expected him to be “The One” and it was going to be a pain to have to start all over again with somebody else. How far removed from the present moment is that? A friend told me how upset she was when her boyfriend left her. She added: “I was hoping to spend my birthday with him. I’ve never had a boyfriend on my birthday. And now, I’m gonna have yet another birthday as a singleton.” This guy just wasn’t right for her. It was her dashed expectation that saddened her more than the loss of this particular man.

We feel more at ease in the company of someone who’s not trying so hard to control everything. There’s more room to breathe, to laugh, to just be… So, if we stop expecting so much from those close to us, we’ll enable closer (and freer) relationships. And if we stop building up unrealistic expectations of events, we’ll enjoy them whatever way they turn out. It’s often the impromptu nights that are the most fun. And we end up really enjoying that trip we hadn’t been looking forward to. Why? Because we had no expectations and, therefore, no attachment to the outcome.

Having no expectations doesn’t mean acquiring a pessimistic outlook on life. It means slipping into the present. Enjoying everything as it happens. Letting go of control over ourselves and others. It means less stress and disappointment. It means relaxing into the flow and allowing life to get easier. When we have no expectations whatsoever, that’s when magic can happen…

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