I recently went to a yoga workshop hosted by my lovely friend, the yoga muse. She brought in Master Yogi Gabriel Halpern for a series of workshops. I attended a workshop for teachers only, focusing on body sightings and hands-on adjustments. We were in this sort of “circle” time for introductions, history of our yoga experience, and lastly, Gabriel asked to us to say what we are looking to get out of the workshop. I was sitting on my bolster facing forward, and it was someone’s turn behind me. I was watching Gabriel and taking notes when the woman behind me said she was “open to whatever comes her way” as the answer to what she is looking for from the workshop.
Gabriel told her thank you for joining us, made a comment about knowing one of her teachers, and in response to what she was looking for, he spoke about the idea of expectation. In the past seven years during my study of yoga, I’ve read a lot of books and texts, including ones with yogic ideas of letting go of “expectation” and detachment as ways to seek enlightenment. Within my studies, I’ve never come across messages that supported holding onto expectation– only lowering them and letting them go. Pure bliss is being unattached to the past and the future, and being in the present moment, right? I’ve found increased success in my relationships (and in my world) when I let go of certain expectations I seem to have. It is hard to get disappointed if you’re not hoping for anything, right? That’s ok that my friend never returned my voicemail. Even though the yoga class I just took started 10 minutes late and the room was freezing, it is up to me to have a great class, not the teacher or the studio.
Not according to Gabriel. He points out that we inherently and sometimes unconsciously have expectations everywhere around us and in most things in our life. The way I see it, that is us being human. I don’t live most of my life in “pure bliss” moments where nothing else matters (although I sure try), but yoga definitely helps this process.
The problem, according to Gabriel, is not that we have the expectations, it is when they remain silent. When we don’t voice the expectations are inherently within us, there are misunderstandings between ourselves and the world. Ding, ding, ding! That rang true for me.
Most of my frustrations, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings in my life could probably be boiled down to unfulfilled expectations. In dating situations this really rings true– it has proven to be very difficult to be entirely “on the same page” within a relationship. Among my married cohorts, they agree, expectations aren’t just for the single and dating folk like me. Obviously, an understanding of a basic expectation like faith is necessary. It seems the more subtle expectations can prove to be more challenging over the course of time. After 35 years, my mom still gets mad at my dad for driving in the left lane and being cheap with waitstaff– she still expects that he will do the “right” thing in her mind (aligning with her expectations) when he is living out his own expectations present within himself. We are all in our own world, yet simultaneously in orbit with others around us in work, love, and play.
Sometimes I’ll be in a yoga class and can feel myself exhaling the expectations that perhaps aren’t serving me– the feelings of should-be’s and do’s both from myself and from others, the expectations I set for my career, etc. I think sometimes we can all benefit from checking- in and evaluating. It can be healthy to detach from some of the ego and expectations and focusing on things that “matter.” Family, health, and the beautiful moments that life presents to us day after day like fresh flowers and the comfort of a home cooked meal can help relieve some of those expectations and attachments that aren’t really valid or important to us. But at the same time, we’re human and it’s OK to expect things out of other people and ourselves, the “dance” is learning when to raise our voice or leave them behind.
We fall down and down, until we touch the ground, until we relate with the basic sanity of the earth. We become the lowest of the low, the smallest of the small, a grain of sand, perfectly simple, no expectations…If you are a grain of sand, the rest of the universe, all the space, all the room is yours, because you obstruct nothing, overcrowd nothing, possess nothing. – Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche