Why do we at times find it so difficult to extend goodwill to others? And why is it so easy to launch off on a rant (whether out loud or silently) when someone rubs us the wrong way? It comes down to our expectations.
Physical well-being, absence of suffering, mental-emotional good-spiritedness: these are the natural result of honoring what’s in front of us. The habit of not-honoring, or dishonoring, what’s in front of us is a reflection of mental-emotional bad-spiritedness, and is associated with states of physical suffering whether manifest or to-be-manifest.
Therefore, those serious about the health enhancing lifestyle must examine how and where we harm our health by negative states of dishonoring life.
“Expectations are resentments under construction”Anne Lamott
Quick aside: you may want to nibble on these earlier posts where we explored the benefits accruing to such a habit and what it means to honor (and dishonor) another.
Expectations has as a root idea the concept of looking outward (Latin ex- + specto for those who dig etymology)–a projecting of our own ideas onto Life unfolding, a desire to see what we think we should see, a desire to not see what we think we should not see.
But given the no-brainer fact that we humans are an imperfect species, selfish, immature tendencies up in the mix with evolved intelligence and animal desires, who are we that we should blindly trust our expectations? Who are we that we should not regard with some skepticism our own assumptions and conclusions at the root of our expectations? Who are we that we should think we are always right?
Our expectations color, filter our interpretations of Life unfolding. Things are gravy when our expectations are met, and suck when not met. When we interpret an experience as “sucking”, aren’t we quick to disparage–to dishonor–those we believe are responsible? If we are intent on living a life of greater inner peace, then, how is it not right and proper that we pay careful attention to this? And furthermore, if Life “out there” is shitty when our expectations are not met, what kind of inner strife corrodes our hearts when we don’t meet our own expectations of ourselves?
We discern two kinds of expectations: skillful and unskillful. The inner climate (a phrase used in various Pathwork Lectures–here, for example) is an important factor in determining the true state of affairs. Are we relaxed, patient, flexible? Are we urgent, impatient, contracted? One way on the surface and another way below the surface? It takes a great deal of patient self-study to really know. Since our main concern is enhancing well-being, reference to expectations in this post implies the unskillful kind.
Just as a stain is removed from a shirt by first being able to formulate a clear thought “oh look, there is a stain on my shirt”, we can only purify the mind of expectations by first admitting we harbor them.
We more easily part ways with a habit when, on clear examination, we discern the harm of maintaining it. If we see plainly that expectations can carry the taint of selfishness or outright error, if we conclude that holding tightly to certain expectations is certain to bring harm now and in the future, then doesn’t it make sense to simply give them up, to relinquish them? To supplant the mentality of expectations with the conscious practice of honoring what’s in front of us for what it is and what it isn’t creates the conditions for acceptance, for meaningful exchange, for greater happiness
We can let go of a smaller treasure when a greater treasure is brought in front of us. Honoring what’s in front of us is a greater treasure compared to the lesser treasure of dishonoring what’s in front of us. When we reflexively flow in states of dishonoring, we recall that we have the option to switch lanes and practice honoring. All it takes is the decision to do so.
Why is honoring what’s in front of us the greater treasure? Such a state enables us to discern in real time the path of the win-win for all involved, by definition mutually uplifting. Dishonoring is, to borrow concepts from Stephen Covey, a win-lose or lose-lose proposition, by definition mutually harmful.
Action items/points to ponder:
** what is our perceived gain by overtly/covertly insisting, demanding that others should follow our way?
** Just as a dandelion with its long taproot is only temporarily out of our garden by merely plucking its stem and leaves, our expectations of Life do not really cease by merely superimposing the “right” attitude. What are the roots of expectations? Ideas that come to mind: low self-esteem causing us to demand others give us what we are too weak to give ourselves, cherishing some artificial picture-perfect ideal that would win us more love/approval, our pedestalized ego thinks itself above others. What comes to your mind?
** the practice of honoring what’s in front of us will inexorably bring us to a core conflict–“i want to love” vs “hell nah no i don’t wanna love that a-hole!!“. This conflict is a precious test for us to prove to ourselves what we’re really about.
** to honor can only come from a place of all-inclusive benevolence; otherwise, it wears the form of honoring but doesn’t have the substance of honoring. Sometimes we prefer the psuedo-safety of separation to the true safety of opening up to Life.
** perhaps it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing hey we’re besties yaayy! or i hate you get the fukk outta my face. Especially with those whom we deeply dislike (for valid or non-valid reasons), we can take a respectable baby step by honoring their humanity, their wounds, their use of free will in the pursuit of happiness. Would we not want to be treated with the same respect?
** to love is to surrender to a Truth greater than our own. Relinquishing the cherished habit of maintaining expectations is an act of love, and thus an act of surrender. Where might you be so tightly controlling that surrendering is nearly impossible?
The unexamined life is not worth living.attributed to Socrates, ancient Greek philosopher