Monday, February 3, 2014

The Disappointment Guru

"Expect the worst. That way, you won't ever be disappointed."

Several years ago, my brother was driving me back from a yoga retreat in New Mexico and we had a very candid conversation about our dysfunctional thinking patterns. We both held the above statement to be true, even though we knew it wasn't a healthy one. Because we had realized (separately) that we don't handle disappointment well, we both had created patterns in our lives for negative expectations in order to avoid it. We laughed about it at the time, but in looking back, I believe that was when I set out to change my patterns.

Recently, a video came across my Facebook feed called "Wanting Yes and Getting No," which is not a new topic but the lecture was new to me. In the video, professor Fred Luskin talks about forgiveness, which he defines as the ability to make peace with the word "no." When we expect "yes" but life gives us "no," we resist reality and are upset by it.

When I look back on my patterns, I see that this idea fits perfectly with my understanding of the situations:

I expect my family to be more health conscious, but they aren't...

I go to my yoga studio expecting my class to be available to me, but it's not...

I get on my mat at home, expecting to have some quiet time to practice, but the dogs are barking, the phone rings and the house is cold...

I expect to be able to practice certain poses, but my body is in pain, my mind wanders and my breath is erratic...

I expect my friend's life to be as long as mine, but I'm just told her cancer is back...

In each one of these cases, I observe my reactions to not getting what I expect, and they range from mild annoyance to anger and fear. These are emotions that I know are unhealthy and won't help me in the long run. I need a better way.

Luskin tells us that "the essence of forgiveness is to be resilient when things don't go the way you want." So how can I bounce back from these emotions? He tells us that, after grieving, we can forgive and be at peace with not getting what we want.

For me, the key is to allow that time to grieve, or process, the difference between my expectations and reality. During that time, I try to find perspective by remembering that everything is impermanent and that my intention during this short life is to leave behind an echo of peace.

Depending on the situation, my process time can be decades or it can be moments. I'm learning to give myself that time. I try not to respond to the situation too much before I've processed the disappointment, and what I'm finding is that disappointment is not as beastly as I painted it in my memory.

Disappointment is actually good for me; it is my teacher that reminds me to let go.

Here is a link to Fred Luskin's video: