Thursday, February 19, 2009

Letting Go of Expectations

Expectations are lies that we tell ourselves.
--Mike P.

I've done a lot of work over the years on letting go of expectations. When we hold an idea of how something should be, whether positive or negative, we become disappointed when things don't follow that idea. And when things do go the way we think they should, we are in danger of building our egos up to dangerously prideful levels.

Recently I've discovered that I am going to be a mother, and I was overwhelmed by the constant stream of worry that comes along with that. While a lot of it is hormonal, it does not excuse me from the fact that I am responsible for letting go of the way I think things should be.

This experience is challenging because I lost a child before and have to constantly keep telling myself that I do not know that things will turn out that way again. I have a lot of physical limitations due to some complications and surgery I've had to undergo in order to keep my baby safe.

I was not expecting to be required to spend most of my days off my feet and to be required to quit my job. I was not expecting to go from working mom to housewife in a matter of 24 hours due to circumstances beyond my control. I was not expecting to have to give up church and other spiritual activities I participate in to stay home and be healthy.

But I have done these things and more because I know that this is what is required in order to be healthy. I can't say I have done them gracefully, as there has been a lot of unnecessary kicking and screaming and whining on my part. But I find the less I whine about the way things are, the easier it is to deal with. It is okay to not be okay, but by clinging to my expectations I have found that I remain unhappy, which is also bad for my health.

So what did you expect today that hasn't happened? How have you dealt with it? If you truly want to be free, tell yourself today that you will not expect anything, and see how you feel when the day is done. If you like the results, keep doing it. While it is impossible to have absolutely no expectations at all, lighten your load and enjoy the results. I know I do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's Not Up To Me

What a freeing concept it was that the world was not resting on my shoulders anymore. I no longer was responsible for anything but my actions. If things go wrong then it's not meant to be, and to move on instead of wallowing in what might have been.

Lately I've been struggling in every area all at the same time, and have really taken this whole idea to heart, doing what I can and seeing where things fall. Me and my husband did not speak for over a week and now seem to be okay again. My debts are sky-high and was recently dragged back into court once again. On top of everything, the job thing seems to be not working out too well. But my mindfulness training teaches me to view things as neutral instead of positive or negative.

On a whim, I applied for a job overseas. It's not up to me, it's way over my head, and I probably won't get it anyway.

Next thing I know, an email arrives asking for an interview that afternoon. I agreed, and answered the phone hesitantly when Washington was calling. After fumbling my way through the interview, not really sure about working in a warzone for a year and living on a military base, there was no hope of working there.

The following Monday, I received an email asking for me to think over the position and take my time answering. I accepted. If the company gets the contract, in one month I will be getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.

When I hated life this never would have happened. It just goes to show what does happen when you get up every day and put one foot in front of the other, doing the best you can.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"I have been to Sorrow's Kitchen
and have licked all the pans dry."
-Zora Neale Hurston

It has been a while since the pains of sorrow have touched me as much as they did over the weekend. I am separated from someone I love very much, for the simple reason that our lifestyles are not compatible.

Even though he has stopped by several times since he left a month ago, this weekend was like I was seeing him for the first time. He looked horrible. He also did not follow-through on a promise and I was devastated.

I cried for what seemed to be like eternity. It was a gut-wrenching feeling, with sorrow coming from the deepest depths of my soul. That's why this quote hit me so hard. When I heard it, shivers when down my spine and the hair on my arms stood straight up.

Yes, I too have been to Sorrow's Kitchen and have tasted the bitterness of a love that just doesn't seem to work, no matter how hard we try.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

poverty is a choice, money is a burden

It's interesting that monastics must take a vow of poverty. Catholic nuns do it verbally, and Buddhist monks are only allowed few possessions.

Living in a capitalist society, the choice to be without money seems backwards to the way things should be, but our spiritual heroes, like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, must do this in order to enter their chosen profession.

The Bible teaches that one cannot serve both money and God. Buddhist philosophy teaches that money can create unhealthy attachments, which are a way to run away from one's self. Yet society fills our mailboxes with sale papers and credit card pre-approvals, enticing us to shop ourselves into financial ruin.

I recently made the decision to leave my job to pursue employment that was more along the lines of what suits my creative nature. Working at the food stamp office was difficult and dealing with despair on a daily basis finally took its toll after two long years.

I plunged headfirst into self-employment and the poverty that ensues, vaguely aware of the looming recession and the price of gas climbing towards the outer reaches of heaven. And though homelessness seems to be looming in my future on an almost daily basis, somehow the rent gets paid.

To tell you the truth, I don't miss the choices that money brings. Life may have been full of options back then, but the pursuit of buying more nice things kept me from appreciating what I already had. It was a never-endng cycle, consuming and acquiring but never feeling fulfilled. And even though paying bills and dealing with the occasional shut-off notice from the electric company are not very enjoyable, somehow all my needs are met.

God provides for me what money cannot. I never knew I was trying to serve two masters, and my attachment to money was keeping me from enjoying what life has to offer. And though the choice of poverty is most definitely the hard road, the burden of money has been lifted, for now.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

a clear conscience

"The softest pillow we could ever have is a clear conscience"
-Ed M.

I had the privilege to see Ed speak yesterday at a church in my new hometown. He told his story of hate and redemption and it almost moved me to tears.

And though he said a million things that really touched me in a few sweet, short hours, the one thing that struck me most is what he said about the conscience.

It struck a cord deep in my soul that is still singing to me over 24 hours later. The gift of a clear conscience is one of the greatest things God has blessed me with these past few years, and it took much work to get there.

Even at 21 years old, full of the rebelliousness and invincible attitude that comes with that age, I was carrying around a lifetime of baggage behind me. Thank God it got too heavy to carry.

Others have dropped their baggage, too. But the old feelings, attitudes and behaviors fit like an old pair of tennis shoes every time they heave the bags back on their shoulders once more. The scariest part of it is that everyone can tell that they're back in chaos except the ones carrying the bags.

So a clear conscience is a soft pillow. Sleeping is easy when the pillow is soft and the heart is empty of burden. This is why we practice forgiveness. I believe is was Old St. Francis who put it best: "It is by forgiving that one is forgiven."

Amen to that one.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Love is the only thing that's real

"Love is the only thing that's real. Everything else is an illusion."
--Marianne Williamson

In Return to Love, Marianne Williamson shares her reflections on A Course in Miracles with us. I was inspired to learn that she did not go to Harvard and that her success is based on her desire to live a spiritual life.

The premise of A Course in Miracles is that things manifest out of either the Holy Spirit (or whatever you like to call it) or the Ego. The Ego is a negative entity that creates fear rather than love.

Since God is love, love is therefore the only thing that's real and fear is an illusion created by the Ego to keep us away from love. This means that every negative thing I see is created by my own mind (ego) and I have to ask God to correct my perceptions in order to get past it.

This statement is both simple and powerful, and I am using it in my own life to keep me from being unhappy. I have a lot of difficult things going on in my life right now. By using mindfulness, I am able to view them as neutral rather than positive or negative.

This change in perspective helps keep things from getting too overwhelming. When I am upset, I now ask for my perceptions to be corrected, which is also a Buddhist tool as well. Mindfulness teaches us that life is an exercise in perceptions and in order to experience mudita in the here and now we need to focus on the joyful things in life.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Self-Fulfillment through Self-Employment

On Monday morning I woke up and decided to call in to work, dreading another day of low pay and high stress. I reached for my cell phone to call my supervisor and it was dead. At that moment I decided to quit.

I didn't call in or show up. I was hoping that I would get fired so I could collect unemployment, but on Tuesday I had a voicemail from my supervisor saying that she was worried.

I went to the library and emailed my resignation. I was tired working with poor people and not being able to help them. I was tired of working for low pay and great benefits, saying to myself that somehow, someday I would be able to be my own boss.

Why not today?

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about compartmentalization, where one separates their lives into many different little lives.

My work life over here, my spiritual life over there, my family life way off in the distance somewhere. But if spirituality is a journey to wholeness, than the goal is to integrate all my little lives into one. So I trust that the same principles I use in my family and spiritual life also apply in my career.

I am exploring the idea of self-employment as self-fulfillment, and I have gotten mixed reactions from the people I have shared this with so far. I want to be true to my beliefs, even in business.

Mahatma Gandhi says that "business without morality" is one of the "seven deadly social sins."