This weekend, I am attending a yoga workshop hosted by my home studio, The Yoga Joint, led by a teacher that I used to regularly practice with years ago. His name is Rolf Gates, author of Meditations from the Mat and the recently released Meditations on Intention and Being.
He is a phenomenal yoga master.
I remember trudging through the snow to the tiny studio where he used to lead a group of devoted students through a strong, sweaty vinyasa practice. We were all younger then, and all these various forms of power yoga were just emerging.
It was beautiful to practice with Rolf again, some fifteen years later. His practice is much the same on the outside; after all, an asana is an asana- a physical form. A downward facing dog will always be a downward facing dog. Even so, Rolf’s deepening as a teacher and a human being was plainly evident to me as I spent hour after hour on the mat. He brought such stillness and silence into the practice. Even though there were some fifty yogis moving in the room, you could hear a pin drop. The silence was rich.
As I deepened into the practice, my own inner stillness amplified like an undulating ocean.
I began to reflect on expectations- and disappointment. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, all the ways in which we as a society project expectations on one another that can only- by their very nature- end in disappointment. Whether it is a newly elected politician, a new employee, or a new lover- more often than not, we are let down by the very same person who seemed to hold the promise of something special and something true.
My reflection began to move in closer to my heart as we moved through a series of sun salutations. I felt my heart twist as I remembered just earlier that evening an interaction I had with my eldest son. I had given him my old phone- an iPhone, mind you- as a way to be able to call me when I travel for work. He was thrilled when I told him I was giving him the phone, but as soon as he realized it was “old”, he expressed disappointment.
I chastised him. I did what most parents do- I gave him a good lesson in appreciation and gratitude. In doing that, I realized I had overlooked a much more important teaching that was ripe for him to learn. If only I had received his disappointment fully, and let him express it….. I could have then helped him to see for himself how all expectations hold within them the seed of disappointment. And in meeting that disappointment fully- we can find freedom.
After the first hour of practice, my mind was increasingly clear and still as a pond without a ripple.
The teaching moved even closer in. To my own projections of expectations on others. In particular, my mind zoned in on one specific person who has seemingly continually let me down. I love this person- a lot- but for some reason that I myself cannot understand (karma?!), this same person is unable to meet my expectations.
This person did not even think to call me last month on my birthday.
I began to play with this two sided coin of expectations and disappointments in my heart. I find that when a tough, sticky pickle shows up in life, sometimes it helps to play with it a little before trying to take it apart. And so I breathed a little into expectation and puffed a little into disappointment until they were ever so slightly buoyant and had a touch of energetic fluff.
The yoga class was really rolling now, and you could feel how everyone was deeply concentrated on their mats. I let expectation and disappointment go, like little white doves releasing over the ocean of my practice. I watched them fly, dozens of white birds, dozens of stories of disappointment.
Sometimes those stories of disappointment are so thick and inculcated that we cannot even see the actual person in front of us anymore because we have lost the present moment and can only cling to the past and what “they did to us”.
Like not calling on my birthday.
I let those birds fly. There were so many that wanted to be free.
And when the story of expectation and disappointment had been released, just underneath that- just under- one breath further- was grief.
Oh, no, not grief. I swear that any time I write in the public sphere about grief people freak out. God forbid anyone talk about grief. And yet, grief is here all the time, woven into every bit of our souls.
Don’t be afraid of grief.
I let it wash over me. I felt the human impulse to push it away but I invited it back in with my next breath. Sweet grief.
And you know what was right underneath that? Just one more breath down?
How did you know?
The irony of it all? The ultimate reason why we expect, what we really want from someone, what all disappointment really is about- is the hunger for love.
There must be some divine sense of humor that as long as you lay heavy your expectations on a friend, lover, or child….. you will be stuck outside of love.
The moment you let those little birds go, like balloons in a blue sky…. well there she is.
There is the love you’ve been waiting for.