Letting go of Expectation

When I was travelling in Florence I found myself on the first day in an old cathedral named Santa Croce, not too far from the famous Ponte Vecchio and the Arno river. It was here that I sensed an unsettling pressure within me and I realised a part of me was feeling overwhelmed from something. Noticing the opportunity to explore and relieve whatever it was I was feeling I sat down in one of the pews, as other tourists wandered around gazing at the tombs of Niccolò Machiavelli and Galileo and various artworks.

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Learn to let go of expectations as they arise, and accept what is to be.

The discomfort came from a pressure I was putting on myself to do everything I possibly could in the short time I was there, and my investigation into this made me realise how impossible and unrealistic this expectation was. This demand I had placed upon myself was in a hurry to see the next sight, treating the break as simply an itinerary to ‘cover’ off, as though I was speeding through a checklist I hadn’t intentionally created.

It was then that I decided to let the burning need to see and do as much as possible go, and when I did, it became clear to me how easy it was for me to enjoy the details of the interior of the grand cathedral I was sitting in. To appreciate the now and what was here, instead of allowing my mind to race onto what was next. I felt such peace and contentment that I just sat in the pew, quietly looking around at the splendor of art and sculptures and the high ceiling. This was what the break was truly for anyway. I didn’t need to do anything, this was good enough and the racing in my mind ceased, allowing me to turn my attention to the details of the now.

Expectation has a two sided purpose, one could be to help us manifest what we want in life and two is a ruminating effect so overwhelming that it begins to drain our happiness in the moment. Perhaps a third purpose is learning to let go of expectations as they arise, and allow what is to be. Everything passes eventually, the good and the bad, and I’ve found the fastest way to contentment is to let go what you think should be and allow for what is. Things we expect to happen exactly as we plan for it rarely ever transpires, it’s called life, but it sets us up for disappointment.

Perhaps there can be faith and belief instead in what is to come, coupled with acceptance for the moment.

We can use the moment as our bedrock, our foundational bottom, to choose how we want to be with ourselves, with others and with life.

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Staying Strong and Knowing Your Value

14-10-2016-12-00-16I’ve noticed that last few months that my sense of self-worth and value has decreased, or at least, has disappeared so much so that I’ve lost touch with myself. With what I know my abilities are and what I’m ‘good at’, not having a job can do that to you.

A good way to boost yourself is to write all your achievements down. In an effort to try and recall and remember what it is that my strengths were, I decided to write some of them down from the past 1-2 years. Here’s a quick shortlist to share:

  • Completed a postgraduate qualification that really opened up my mind and helped me realise the various possibilities that I had.
  • I finished my book and managed to edit it nearly four times.
  • Set up my blog and inspired some readers with my stuff.
  • Learned a lot about myself through setting up my own business. What I’m good at, not so good at and what I like doing most.
  • Traveled to far distant countries alone and met some great, unforgettable people.

Besides writing down all your achievements, one other interesting thing to consider is how you measure your self-worth? The ‘Looking Glass Self’ was a theory proposed by a university instructor called Charles Cooley, who said that we only develop a self-concept when we know how others see us. This is supposedly where our self-image stems from. Remaining conscious of that, you could also question the various sources that contribute to your self-worth. Does it come from being a loving parent or family member? Is it climbing the corporate ladder or being the top student in your class? Does it come from putting work into your passion?

Identifying sources of your self-worth is a good starting point of taking control of how you value yourself, and perhaps cutting off sources that reduce it such as negative comments from others.

Here’s a radical question, what if breathing as you are right now in this space was enough? As I write this blog post, I’m telling myself I need to be doing something else, something more of value and importance. And I realise this is how I’m hard-wired to think. When was the last time you felt that being in the moment that you’re in right now, even as you read this post and breathing, concentrating, on these words I write, was enough? What if the only way out of a self-defeating process of negative self-worth, was to first dispel what others taught us was of value to them? When I’ve looked back at my own successes, the road to achievement was so much easier and enjoyable when I accepted myself completely, no matter what I was doing. There was no judgement, only an unconditional love for myself. My healthy self-worth was naturally matched with healthy successes.

When I made a decision to leave my job two years ago to go abroad, I never expected all that happened to transpire. I thought I would stay in Australia and get a great marketing job and find someone and settle down; coupled with a nice, secure future. I thought that when things didn’t quite work out that way I would home and go back to working full-time. But I didn’t because I wanted another adventure, and to improve myself more by upskilling and start a business. I wanted to know how far I could push my limits because travelling alone was one of the scariest things that I’d ever done, and I wanted to know what else I could do. I know now that if I’m not being challenged, I’m not growing and I’m bored. That’s something I may never have known if I didn’t take the chance and leave.

At the end of the day, it’s really how you define your own success, and determine your own self-worth. You devise your own measuring stick for weighing your achievements. Don’t use one that was given to you, distorted and patterned with someone else’s perceptions and ideals.

Grow Through Fear

I had developed a fear of flying after spending one year abroad. The anxiety never seemed to leave me before and during take off. Those long minutes are tricky, challenging and I always, always have the worse case scenario overplaying in my head even before the wheels leave the tarmac. It usually involves me panicking and clawing for the door, begging staff to let me off. I was determined to figure out how to handle it.

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‘What you resist, persists.’ – Carl Jung

These particular thoughts and feelings are unpleasant to say the least. But hours before I was to travel by plane, I decided a meditation session could help my nerves and the result was that it put things in perspective.

I focused on the details that made me feel panicky the most – the height the plane would be travelling at, the enclosure of a small space with lots of people with no option to leave and the fear I would lose control of myself and have some kind of panic attack. At first it was very difficult and uncomfortable to look at each of them – and that’s when I realised that was exactly my problem. I wouldn’t look at them or acknowledge their existence. The fact I kept resisting them and pushing them away was what increased them in size. It’s like with any phobia or disorder – it starts off small and is then avoided and feared to the point of extremity. I saw how I was contributing to the fear by fearing what would happen (assuming the future), and secondly by trying to deny or push these fears down. Because of this, it festered.

Resistance to fear entangles us.

In order to give peace to myself and to take a first step to transcending these fears, I needed to acknowledge them in a friendly way. I needed to make space for them within myself and house them. I learned that we need to make friends with our fears just as easily as we find it easy to make friends with feelings of happiness.

I travelled to the airport that day in a state of peace that I hadn’t felt in a while, and it made me realise that adversity forces us to rise to higher standards of resilience and courage that we never realise we possessed. These fearful situations not only call for our approaching wisdom, but also acceptance of the uncomfortable. Because for all those long minutes during take off, I was proud of myself for facing it and the holiday I received for a few moments of discomfort was worth it.

Resisting the negative only seems to double its efforts, accepting them helps us move through them more quickly and experience positivity again.

Fears are the dirty underside of the coin that most of us do not want to look at. But we give them power when we refuse their presence, and treat them as an inconvenience for us; but what if we could work with them to relinquish them? Having fear teaches us courage, being sad makes us appreciate the moments when we are happy. The negative and positive compliment each other in the same way as Ying Yang do. I believe if I give my fears their space within long enough, I may eventually find that space unoccupied.

The experience can be almost perfectly encapsulated by the famous poem by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.