lower your expectations

by michelle on July 3, 2012

You know how the advice we give, the class we teach, the thing we write about is probably the thing we need to hear? Yaaa.

I’ve been “back to work” for a few weeks now… teaching classes, showing up at the studio, even contemplating writing posts again. And the most lovely feeling has been present: joy. The voice of the critic, which is usually on speakerphone at max volume, has been quieted. In the void there has been a feeling of very neutral, anti-climactic non-attachment.

What happened? I’ve lowered my expectations.

At first this felt like apathy. But it’s not — I do care. I just don’t feel so entangled in the old stories I’ve told myself, the old habits or beliefs that haven’t fit for a long time and were probably hand-me-downs to begin with.

Simplified reflections around this (as much for me to hear myself say as to inspire dialogue here) could be lumped into three main ideas: me as over-doer, me as under-doer, me as mortal.

 

ready aim aim aim….

We all know the trap: We don’t want to start something until we can do it well… as in perfectly.

We are generally so caught up in the product we forget the importance of the process. The fact that even if the outcome sucks, the experience of the activity is The Whole Point. The deeper value of it for everyone involved  – connection, discovery, joy — can’t be measured.  It’s the “what happens while you’re doing it?” gift.

There’s also a hint of arrogance in this goal of perfection. Even “noble” expectations (I want to provide/give/do within a certain standard) could be seen as self serving. What the ego really wants is to make sure that I’m seen as a reliable, good, all-knowing.

The poet William Stafford set an audacious goal: To write a poem a day for a year. Robert Bly asked him how he did it. His answer? “I lowered my standards.”

 

no, I could never…

Then there’s the Who am I to do it if it’s already been done better? alibi.

Get a pep talk from a friend, go splash some cold water on your face, do some sit ups — stoke the fire of passion for what it is you bring. Wake up to the gift you’ve been given. Not doing your thing out of insecurity is no better than not doing it out of arrogance — they are just different sides of the same coin of self-absorption.

We also miss The Point of the process (see above) by expecting to be as good as someone else. Thank goodness Adele didn’t stop singing because she didn’t sound like Ella Fitzgerald.

Let go of the pressure of Who am I to…?  Who you are is what we want.

 

mere mortal

Last night while teaching I mentioned, as related to the theme of the class, that I’d been in a super funk, foul mood all day. This morning I received an email from a student thanking me for saying that — how nice it was to hear that “yoga teachers are humans too.”

The things we think of as our flaws, imperfections and shortcomings are the very things that make us relatable. Even lovable. And most certainly human.

And isn’t that all there is? As essential as water and sunshine to a plant, the most basic needs of the heart are to connect, belong, be known and know another.

That can’t be practiced or managed. You can’t get it right or wrong. (Which is probably equal parts terrifying and relieving.)

 

Join me in lowered expectations? How could you give yourself (or someone else) a break? How is what you already do/are enough?

 

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy July 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

THIS: “Wake up to the gift you’ve been given. Not doing your thing out of insecurity is no better than not doing it out of arrogance — they are just different sides of the same coin of self-absorption.”

LOVE.

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Michelle J July 3, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Work has been exceptionally busy, have been dealing with a problem shoulder, haven’t been getting as much physical activity, blah blah blah. Decided that it was time to refocus some priorities and accept the imperfection of life. Back to the lunchtime walks (instead of working that extra half hour) – felt great, despite the heat. Welcome home – it’s great to see you in the studio again and to meet the new crop of freshly-trained students.

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Kate Z. July 4, 2012 at 1:59 am

Michelle, “Who you are is what we want,” yes.

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Anna July 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Beautiful — as always. Glad you’re back to the blog! xo

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Liz July 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm

so good to hear your voice again. i am happy that you have found peace and joy. i have been studying more of thich nhat hanh’s teachings recently. he is so wise. he reminds us that we can’t experience true joy and happiness without also experiencing pain and suffering. they each have the seeds of each other in them and we can choose to harvest the fruits of what we cultivate.

i also have totally joined the “lower your expectations” bandwagon. i have been trying to practice the mantra of “good enough.” i am a good enough ______. fill in the blank with all the different roles i play (mother, wife, daughter, sister, etc). in fact, i am a good enough person as i can be right now and everyone else is also as good enough as they can be in this moment.

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Jason July 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I love all of this!

Thanks for bringing up this, “The things we think of as our flaws, imperfections and shortcomings are the very things that make us relatable. Even lovable. And most certainly human.”

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Luke July 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Stafford was a poet laureate of Oregon, you know. A guy who knew what the sublime is. And he wrote every morning his whole career. Sometimes just a snippet. Lots of this stuff is collected in his book, Every War Has Two Losers, which is a snippet of sorts. He was a conscientious objector during WWII. Another thing he said was, “Beat your bullhorns into ear horns.” Good advice.

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