In yoga, they talk a lot about letting go of expectations. Unmet expectations usually create suffering. I can testify that this is true. Suffering takes us out of the present moment, which is not a good thing. My friend noted several times that I didn’t seem to be in the moment during my yoga retreat. Kind of ironic. I came on this retreat to be more present in time and space. And I totally blew it. Because the whole experience didn’t meet my expectations. So basically, I put myself in a revolved half moon pose—you know—twisted and off balance.
Except that isn’t true. Or, at least, it’s not entirely true. But I struggled mightily with my unrealized expectations the whole trip. Also, it was a retreat, and, as I’ve written about before, it wasn’t supposed to be entirely comfortable. Just enlightening. Which it was, I think. But that is fodder for another post. Today we’re talking about expectations. I found myself wishing, repeatedly, that I were more like Charley Davidson as the retreat progressed.
In Dirt on Ninth Grave, Charley has lost her memory and is living in upstate New York, working as a waitress. The amnesia thing is a problem, because she is The Grim Reaper, and souls pass through her and onto the other side (up or down, depending). But regardless of her extraordinary status, in this book she is clueless, scared, and confused. But none of that negates her true nature as a deeply caring, morally good, if slightly flighty, person. In addition to that, one thing I noticed about Charley as I was reading and cogitating on my own unhappiness over my unmet expectations, is the fluidity with which Charley lets her own expectations roll off her back. She’s a duck. In several passages, Charley (who doesn’t actually remember her own name), encounters an unexpected situation, takes note that it wasn’t what she expected, and simply moves on.
Interestingly, I used to believe I was just like Charley. Flexibility and Spontaneity were my middle names, followed by resourcefulness when situations weren’t what I’d predicted or assumed. I was, or so I thought, a ‘roll with the punches’, ‘turn on a dime’, ‘silver lining’ kinda gal. Just like Charley. But in Costa Rica, that chick was nowhere to be found.
Instead, she was replaced with Nervous Nellie, Debbie Downer, and Goldilocks, for whom nothing was ever just right. What happened? Damned if I know. (Well, I might have some thoughts on that, however, they need to coalesce a bit before I share them). I will say this: expectations become a major problem when the stakes are perceived to be high. It seems the greater the expectations, the greater the suffering associated with their remaining unfulfilled.
Unlike my last retreat, where I had no clue what to expect, I had a lot of expectations around this one. I expected to enhance my yoga practice. I did get into Crow pose, but beyond that, I’m not sure I advanced. I expected to have deep and meaningful conversations with my fellow yogis and yoginis. Except for my close friend and travel companion that didn’t happen. It’s hard to create intimacy among strangers. I expected to go deep, but I found I couldn’t get there with the schedule, and the people and the chitchat and the expectations of others weighed heavily on me, despite my best efforts to ignore them. Tough to ignore the energy of so many interconnected people. Perhaps if I were more enlightened, it would have worked better. But I’m just not there yet. I had expectations about directed conversations, about leadership and about the activities that were based wholly on my imagination. Apparently, my imagination, about which I sometimes despair, is working just fine. The trouble was my inability to find truth in any of my fantasies in Costa Rica.
None of this is to say that there weren’t moments of happiness, joy and freedom. There were. There were moments of ‘ground-ed-ness’ in the sands of the beach and the waves of the ocean surrounding me. There were moments of authentic connection with people I’d never met or didn’t know well, which was nurturing. And there was the inspiration of great natural beauty that always uplifts me. I just wish I could have strung a few more of those moments together, into say a whole day or even a week.
Then I had a weekend alone in Houston to contemplate all of my great expectations and my great disappointments thanks to an unexpected blizzard. All in all, life is good and my memory is intact, unlike poor Charley. And I had a weekend to myself to read, write and do yoga. Sounds like a great retreat to me. Namaste.