Happy Wellness Wednesday,
At the end of July I committed to a month without alcohol. Though I have accomplished the same detox before, this one was particularly challenging. I was disappointed when I did not feel the extra energy I have experienced in the past; I developed expectations.
I love the buttons alcohol, money, and sex can push. Ultimately these experiences are not inherently bad, nor are they inherently good, they just are. My favorite chapter of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums is 27. Ray and Japhy get into a fight about drinking alcohol and its relation to the spiritual path. After Japhy gives Ray a scolding on his drinking habits he goes to a Buddhist lecture. When he returns he says: “I went to the Buddhist lecture and they were all drinking white raw saki out of teacups and everybody got drunk. All those crazy Japanese saints! You were right! It doesn’t make a difference! We all got drunk discussed prajna! It was great!”
This blog entry is not about choosing to drink or choosing to abstain from alcohol. Rather, it is about expectations. Japhy had fixed ideas of where alcohol should be on the spiritual path. These ideas are probably useful, yet when they become static they becoming limiting. This inflexible view contributes to spiritual materialism, ego-identification, and expectations. Expectations come from both within and from others as well. We think we have to behave a certain way because we teach yoga, go to church, pray, meditate, etc… We create expectations of how we ‘should’ feel if we do something. Just as I had expected to feel differently on my alcohol detox, we create ideas of what something or someone should be like.
If we shift the classical conclusion that expectations inhibit our spiritual growth, we can find a point of acceptance and learn from them rather than avoid them. Expectations can work to our advantage. For example, when I drop a pen I expect it to fall to the floor. I have an expectation that the force of gravity will have the same effect on the pen as on every other object I have experienced in my life. How can we use expectations advantageously in other areas of our lives – areas a little less consistent than the world of physics? How can we use the information without getting caught in the ego? Honestly, I am still grappling with this question, but I have three suggestions to help begin the reflection process.
1. Be in the moment. Expectations are built from past experiences. This information is great and useful, but it is not the whole enchilada. You are constantly learning and growing; even though you had a similar experience in thepast, you never have the exact same experience twice. Through present moment awareness we create enough space to use expectations as useful information rather than getting lost in them.
2. Empathize. This is particularly useful when your expectations are built within a relationship. See the other person’s point of view. Expectations in relationships are wonderful standards to hold your partner and self accountable to; however, do not be inflexible.
3. Forgive. Guess what… As human beings we have all fucked up! Even when we try to do our absolute best, sometimes things just do not workout the way we thought they would. Through truly forgiving others and ourselves we find a deep place of contentment, a place expectations can never jar.
I hope this blog provides you with useful information you may begin using in your life right now. If you have not read The Dharma Bums, it’s a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. Now that it is mid-week, let’s all go get drunk, drunk on life. I am ready to feel the hangover of inspiration.
With love & gratitude,