The last couple of weeks I have listened to at least four people talking about how suffering is caused by expectations not meeting reality. As I was thinking about the topic of my next blog post (now called this blog post), I considered writing about that concept but because I keep hearing it expressed in so many various forms I nearly let the idea pass because it seemed so unoriginal. But then I reminded myself that I am living my own unique life, just as anyone who is reading this post is living his/her unique life, and the fact that I keep hearing it may just mean that the universe is trying to inspire me to pass that truth on rather than it meaning that everyone else is also already getting hit hard with this message.
So, in that light let's talk about expectations. The nuts and bolts of this truth is that suffering is caused by a gap between what we expect and what is our "reality" (I put reality in quotes because many - dare I say all - enlightened beings say that true reality is beyond this world, and the material plane we are living in is a dream, or a type of school in which we have come to experience certain truths for the growth of our eternal selves. This is a bigger topic than can be properly addressed as an aside!). So, when we think something (or someone) should be a certain way but is not, our suffering occurs because instead of accepting what is our attention is turned to what isn't.
Clearly the solution to this suffering is so obvious I don't really need to keep going. When we are faced with such a gap, we rigidly dig in our heels and stand firm in our belief about what we think should be, until the circumstances alter themselves and reshape into our desires. "Do you hear me, undesirable circumstances?!"
Ooorrrrr, we can remain fluid and accept reality as it is. This is not the same as passivity. It's not accepting the possibility or responsibility of making things better. It is being present, acknowledging reality, and understanding what is within our control and worth the energy and what isn't. I may not be happy with current political events, for instance. There are certain things in that sphere which are not in my control. I can't really have any impact on any votes outside of anyone in my inner circle who is undecided and is influenced by my opinions. This is pretty much no one, because I don't really have a lot of "undecideds" in my realm - much less enough to push any election, no matter how small! I can volunteer for a candidate who I felt passionate about. I can canvas neighborhoods. I can take certain actions that can help move the future in a direction politically that I agree with. And, of course, I can vote (TOMORROW!) with my conscious. But I can't change the last election and how it has impacted current events since then. I can't change the crazy stories that come out of Washington (and Twitter) with whiplash speed. I can control how much attention I pay to those stories. I can control how many times I open my news app on my phone, or how many breaking news interruptions are enough, how much 24 hour news is gracing my television. Limiting the depth of my consumption of news that frustrates me is something I can control, and it directly relates to the amount of suffering I feel by way of anger, frustration, confusion, and disbelief (which you could say is an inability to accept what is). In that same vein, I can understand the importance of good journalism and support it financially to make sure there is continued accountability, even if I know it just doesn't serve me to consume as much of it as they'd like me to.
Again, acceptance of present circumstances is not the same as being steamrolled. It is not being a prisoner of circumstance. It is also not being a prisoner of our desires. The acceptance needs to be accompanied by taking stock of what is within our control, and then taking needed action.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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