I’ve been subscribed to Tiny Buddha for a few years now. One concept Lori often addresses and which I have always found both enticing and elusive is mindfulness. The practice of being present in each moment as it occurs runs against so much of what many of us are raised to do – we have to plan for the future, be prepared for every possible outcome, follow our dreams, set up safeguards. While none of these is, in and of itself, a “bad” idea, putting too much of ourselves into what will, could, or should be doesn’t allow for our full presence in the here and now; it is difficult to enjoy a moment when you are fast-forwarding to a point in the future that might come as a result of this moment.
This year, I am choosing to let go of expectations. Of myself, and of others. If I do not expect bad things to happen, I do not create self-fulfilling prophecies. If I do not expect wondrous things to happen, I will not be dissatisfied with really good things. If I do not have expectations, only hopes, then that hope – a beautiful and pure feeling – will assist in the manifestation of a positive next moment, day, month.
Expectations of myself tie in to the perfectionism piece. I am going to choose to allow myself to do what I can do, and without a set expectation, less does not make me a failure, and more does not set me up to chastise myself for not having set the bar higher in the first place. There is no bar; what I do is just right.
Expectations of others go both ways: expecting something bad – rejection, anger, ridicule – prevents me from making myself vulnerable in a moment I might really feel like sharing a part of myself. I want to fully experience those moments, to be present in them and take chances, to know that I have not allowed a “what if” to color my relationship with that person. Again, as with perfectionism, this requires that I give people the benefit of the doubt and do not try to take away their voice. I need to trust that people will also be present with me, and if that means they are angry, they are entitled to that anger. If they are someone with whom I am meant to have a solid and deep connection, we will both feel our feelings, communicate as best we can, and come out stronger on the other side.
Expecting positive things from others – support, attention, specific manifestations of love – doesn’t allow for the people in my life to be who they are and act as they will without repercussions. Rather than thinking, “If you love me, you will _____,” I will choose to think, “You love me. This is how you show me,” and I will appreciate those manifestations of love. If what someone offers and my needs for a certain type of relationship don’t align, that’s okay. There are many kinds of love and many ways people can be in our lives, and each relationship can be beautiful in each moment spent connecting with that person.
Yesterday, Melissa and I drove out to Kettle Cove. It was an absolutely beautiful day; sunny, very little wind, well above freezing. We walked across the footbridge, scoped out the beach, got settled in, and began by releasing to the air.
As I was writing “perfectionism” on my piece of tissue paper, I laughed out loud because, as I often do when writing longhand, I had skipped a letter and written, “perfectionsm.” I found it entirely apropos, and chose to insert the missing “i” rather than starting over on a new piece. I chose air for perfectionism because it’s the “messy,” uncontrolled physical release – the bits of paper flew where they would, and I had to let them. There was no rescuing them, no making them cooperate and do it “just right.”
I committed my fear to the earth. This felt appropriate because I know that fear is not something I can “cure,” or that will just go away because I tell it to. I have to bury it in order for it not to control me. It will still be there, I know, but its power will be lessened by the weight of the earth I stomped down onto it where I left it buried in the sand.
I set my expectations adrift on the water. This one feels delicate to me, like I need it to be carried carefully away rather than destroyed. I watched my expectations float down the rivulet that cut a path down the beach, rushing toward the sea, carrying the weight off my heart. Water has always been the element to which I am most strongly drawn, and so it felt right to entrust to it this double-edged sword upon which I am attempting to balance.
When resentment hits me, it feels like my entire being is burning from the inside out, so it seemed best to fight fire with fire. It was very gratifying to see the flames dance as they licked away at the paper, and to see the smoldering embers continue the job until nothing was left but ash.
Melissa and I walked the beach for a while afterward, breathing in the beauty of the landscape and the empowerment we felt at having addressed our personal stumbling blocks. An opportunity to confront each of the four things I released occurs daily for me, and I intend to be deliberate in my pursuit of the life I can enjoy if I do not allow them to rule my actions and interactions.
Here’s to growth, change, awareness, and presence in each moment as it occurs. Thank you for this moment in which I can share this piece of me with you.