How Do Expectations Undermine Your Life?

Photo COURTESY OF NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY ARCHIVES

Fulfillment Lies Just Beyond Our Expectations

Let’s call her Margarita. Because of her exceptional presence in the world, her clientele would be disturbed to understand how she has long struggled with discontent and depression.

Margarita and I met through a mutual friend who thought it would be useful. After our first meeting when she was a participant in a spiritual workshop for which I was the leader, I had nothing but great appreciation for her. Soon thereafter she would ask me to mentor her; an offer I was more than pleased to accept.

However, it was with her introduction to the participants of that first workshop that her path emerged. Tears beaded the corner of her eyes as she began her admission. “I love working with others through my profession, and I’m very, very good at it. But I feel like a fraud.” Margarita’s body began to tremble, and I encouraged her to breathe into the feelings. A moment later she added, “I have so much despair.”

There it was, the clearest indicator of brokenness that needed to be made right.

I remember saying to the group that the sacred space we were creating would provide answers though we would not know how or when.

The relationship between Margarita and me flourished. While we were very clear that I was playing a primary role of teacher, it was likewise apparent we were becoming very close friends.

In subsequent conversations, interactions and workshops we were able to deepen her practice of her own inner development. With discussion, breath work, meditation, journaling and dialogue with peers, she continued to advance toward a breakthrough though it was often not clear progress was occurring. Such as it is with spiritual growth, which is often unclear and even more frequently occurs like tides of ebbs and flows.

So it was that I received an e-mail from Margarita one morning quite early. In the middle of it were the signs of the emerging transformation. “I am becoming more and more clear about how much dissatisfaction and unrest are due to my ‘expectations.’  My problem is ALWAYS about ‘expectations.’  Maybe you and I can have a talk soon about that.”

My heart raced because I could sense she was on the cusp of finding holy ground that would change her forever. I quickly replied.

“Oh Margarita, I hope this gets to you before you leave the house. Your insight about expectations as the root of your despair is brilliant. It is very similar to what has been fruitful exploration for me. We are totally unable to accept life on life’s terms because of those expectations. They are a terrible dependency, i.e. unless things line up we cannot find contentedness. Our well-being becomes dependent on things over which we have no influence. Please stay with this line of inquiry. It is beautiful, beautiful inner work on your part.”

Her reply, even before the break of day, rang with clarity. “Bam! And Damn! There it is. Unless things line up according to my expectations I cannnot find contentedness. My well-being feels very dependent on all things out of my control. No wonder I despair at ever overcoming things.”

I was swept up in profound gratitude for Margarita’s inner work. And for the opportunity to learn and grow beside her.

But it was her next note that thrilled me. “You know, it is not coincidental that I am headed off to a weekend retreat. Now I’m taking with me a strong piece of awareness…and now I can begin to work on releasing. Damn!” She closed with the antithesis of despair. “I can see I will be able to laugh at my expectations, and  with that insight this whole problem will simply go away.”

Seeing True

Metanoia is best defined as a profound change of heart, which makes for possibilities and potential that are inconceivable prior to the change in our perception. When perception changes, things are mysteriously made right. The only question we must answer is where we cannot see.

Seeing True in Action

Using Margarita’s experience as a guide, where are you obstructed from well-being? What expectations stand in the way of your fulfillment?