Want to Feel More Peace? Look at Your Expectations
Because we’re trained “to do,” do, do all the time, taking some time out “to be” can same kind of strange. We might sit in a mindfulness practice with the intention of being present to our lives and for some great enlightenment to occur. After a while we start to wonder, “What is this mindfulness practice supposed to be like?” The answer is, “it’s not supposed to be like anything, it’s like this.” The problem with our brain is that it's an expectation machine constantly doing something with the expectation of some result. Maybe we do a favor for someone expecting something in return or maybe we practice Yoga so we will look for fit or be relaxed, or maybe we're going to practice meditation in order to break some old habits. Expectations can be fraught with problems and here is why.
As soon as we do something with the expectation of something else happening, we are more likely to lose the ability to stay present and set ourselves up for disappointment. This affects anyone day to day and has a significant effect on depressive relapse. How? By focusing on the expectation, you are narrowing in on the gap in between where you are and where you would rather be. If you are not where you would rather be, you feel "less than" and disappointed with your current state. There is nothing wrong with a little disappointment as it can create motivation to improve, but when this becomes a habit, it can lead to depressed mood.
Life is full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, tragedies and triumphs. The truth is, it is all part of life. What if from time to time when we were not feeling well or when we were feeling great we could say "this is it! Yes, this is a part of life and it is already here right now, let me open up to feel it." This simple phrase can bring us closer to accepting the reality of the present moment and allow us to experience life as it is, right now. This in no way means resigning to the uncomfortable feelings that may be here, but quite the opposite. We need to be able to be present with what is here to recognize that we have a choice in how to responds.
The great paradox of mindfulness practice, the practice of intentionally paying attention to present moment without judgment, is that we let go of wanting the experience to be anything other than it is we have more of an ability to make a change. We just accept or acknowledge things as they are from moment to moment. In other words, when we stop the habitual struggle of wanting to be somewhere else, we can stop the war inside and begin to listen more deeply to ourselves and others. This renewed connection can open us up to strengths of compassion, empathy, and a greater ability to trust in our own experience.
In The Now Effect there's a chapter that asks people to try saying "It’s like this…and this too!” The moment you realize that the moment is just as it is, the mind takes us away to our expectations again and so we say, “…and this too” bringing us back to the now. Tune into your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do you notice more pleasant or unpleasant feelings? Get to know how you're doing during these days that pass. Does this make a difference in how you choose to respond to the next moment?
As always, please share your thoughts and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.