We’re Expecting!!!

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Sometimes while I’m reading a book I’ll have one of those moments when it feels like the author is speaking directly to me. Even if the book was sold to millions of people I can’t help but think the author had me in mind when he wrote it. This happened to me recently while reading about relationships and expectations in How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy by Hugh Prather.

“Whenever you feel a tinge of irritation or disapproval, you can be sure that you have an underlying expectation.”  Hugh Prather

Ouch!

I didn’t believe it; at first I tried denying it. But several days and many tinges of irritation and disapproval later, I finally admitted to myself that Prather was right.

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My expectations of the other person–not the other person’s actions–are the real cause of my frustrations. That’s a tough pill to swallow! That means I am fully responsible for my own emotions. That means the crafty little story my brain comes up with to make the other person a villain and make me the poor helpless victim is completely false.

“An expectation is looking for something rather than looking at something. We anticipate one thing and do not clearly see the other thing that is at hand….. Our expectations are based on the past and are blind to the present.”  Hugh Prather

It seems impossible to live without expectations but how much less dramatic would my life be without the disappointments of unmet expectations? Most of my pain and suffering is self-induced. I hold on to hurt or grudges for years because of unmet expectations.

“An emotional reaction leaves you stuck, unable to move forward until you look more deeply at whatever the emotion is trying to tell you.”  Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. in The Mastery of Self

This leaves me stuck for a very long time. I let years (or even decades) go by because I refuse to look into my emotional reactions. If I could get out of my own way for just a minute I could see the other person as an ally instead of a villain. If their actions cause me irritation or disappointment, that tells me something about me, not them!

And, yet, I feel so justified in making it all about them. I don’t have to do any hard work if I take the position that they are wrong for not meeting my expectations.

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We all do this. Listen for it the next story someone tells you. Any story you hear where someone was upset or disappointed you will be able to trace it back to an underlying expectation. Every time! They won’t say it, but this is what’s behind their words, “I expected this, but they did that instead.”

We’re all doing it every day. We’re expecting one thing and we get another. As a result we’re disappointed.

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I’ve found if I live in the present moment without any expectations life can be full of joy. Looking at each moment as it comes without any stories from my ego is heaven on earth. Of course, it’s easy to slip back into old habits but the minute I turn to awareness any disappointment I had melts away.

Am I alone in any of this?

Do you have any expectations that are causing you frustration?

Instead of looking for, might we all try looking at?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

Trusting the Process

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Kelsi and I have been having a lot of conversations lately about writing.  She’s been writing a book about a girl with OCD and it’s been such a joy to see her using her gift of writing.

I have been passionate about writing for decades and have read numerous books on the topic over the years.  Sometimes when we’re talking, I find myself wanting to implant some of my learned knowledge inside Kelsi’s head so she won’t have to work as hard at the craft of writing as I have.  Certain things she says triggers a memory of something I learned from a great author and my first instinct is to tell her all about it.

Here’s what I’ve done instead; I’ve trusted the fact that Kelsi is already such a talented writer and she has wisdom beyond her years so she will pick up the books or listen to the podcasts she needs to hear when the time is right for her.  Sure, I may suggest an author like Elizabeth Gilbert or Anne Lamott or Steven Pressfield when it’s appropriate to do so, but to convey everything I have learned about writing to her in just a few conversations would be counterproductive.

Interestingly, while I was reading this morning I came across this short paragraph by Hugh Prather that spoke directly to my thoughts on teaching Kelsi what I have learned.  In Love and Courage, Prather says:

“There doesn’t appear to be a way to give someone else what you know.  Whenever I think I have succeeded in keeping someone from going through one more little hell, the long run proves me wrong.  We each have to learn it all over again for ourselves.  If we say we are all in God’s hands, perhaps it is arrogant to believe we can improve on the job.”

What I have learned about teaching Kelsi and Keaton important life lessons is probably exactly opposite than most would suspect.  You see, I believe we all have an innate wisdom that guides us.  The last thing my children need is me running my mouth about how smart I am and how dumb they are because I have been on this earth longer than them.  Age does not equal wisdom and authority—one visit to any Walmart proves that.  I speak loudest and clearest to my children when I let my life do the talking.  A life well-lived that can be witnessed on a daily basis speaks volumes compared to forcing them to see how smart I think I am.

Whenever someone starts yakking about how smart they are your first instinct is to say, “Yeah, but you do this, and you do that.”  So I know I’m not perfect in this department, but whenever possible I let my life speak more than my mouth does.

In much the same way as I attempt to do in my writing, I strive to teach my children to be comfortable with their humanness.  Friends and loved ones make mistakes.  We will all fail one another probably sooner rather than later.  Life can get messy and confusing at times.  But it’s important to remember we are all human and learning as we go.  Friends and loved ones sometimes have to convey their thoughts several times before they say what they really mean.  Prather speaks beautifully to this as well:

“It’s becoming clear to me that none of us fully knows what we are saying.  In conversation we don’t have the luxury of a rough draft.  Just take a good look at individuals trying to talk: every time they open their mouths it’s an experiment and a gamble, often a minor disaster.  Our friends are the ones who don’t hold this against us.  Even if one had unlimited time to word each thought, there is no fact or feeling so obvious, so simple, that it would fit perfectly into a sentence.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  Everything that comes out of our mouth, or the mouths of those we encounter, is a rough draft.  If I truly grasp that concept then I don’t have to walk around offended anymore at the little things my family or coworkers said wrong.  It’s all just a rough draft, man.  Or as Anne Lamott would say; “All good writing starts with shitty first drafts.” Much of our speech begins with shitty first drafts also.  If given the opportunity to edit our speech much like we would edit our writing, most of us would definitely go through a truckload of erasers.

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I spent a lot of years in the dark.  I felt as though I woke up in the pitch black, no idea where I was.  I would feel around with my hands to find a familiar nightstand or closet door.  Nothing.  I ran my hands along the walls of this unfamiliar place desperately trying to find my whereabouts.  Still nothing.  I bumped into what must’ve been a dresser—because dressers are in bedrooms—but it still gave me no clue to where I was.  Panic set in.  Eventually I found my way to a flat surface on the wall that felt like a window.  I found a toothpick in my pocket so I scratched and clawed in the dark at this flat surface until finally a tiny hint of light illumined on the other side.  My panic faded.  I still didn’t know where I was but I suddenly remembered I have an uncanny ability to figure out my next step in any situation.  Finally, I made my way out of the dark.  I began to see clearly and make sense of my surroundings.  I learned to trust my instincts and trust the process.  What felt like a lifetime of fumbling in the dark is now a distant memory.  Having emerged from such a dark place has done wonders for my eyesight.  I don’t see the world through the same lens I once did.  My eyes have shifted to see the beauty in life.  I now attempt to serve as a flashlight for those who find themselves in their own dark place.

So back to talking to Kelsi about her writing . . . . I have no doubt she’s going to learn what she needs to learn in perfect timing.  I wholeheartedly trust the process.  I unequivocally trust her innate wisdom will shine through and will navigate her to the information she needs when she needs it.

Living in the mysterious flow of life is less about control and more about acceptance.  I am just kidding myself if I think I have any control anyway.  Life is so much better when I let each moment unfold inherently and effortlessly.  Every moment is exactly the way it’s supposed to be and every lesson is learned the minute I’m ready to learn it.  This is true for Kelsi and it’s true for me.

I trust the process!

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Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

PS. Here’s a link to Kelsi’s story Finding Me.

Life is Heavy. Life is Sheer Joy.

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“Friends eventually forgive and come back together because people need people more than they need pride.”  Hugh Prather said that and I believe it to be true.

I have realized this in my own life.  I have allowed my pride to keep me from people who were very important to me.  Eventually, I realized my pride (ego) needed to sit in the back seat and my heart needed to take the wheel.

Relationships are messy business.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  Sometimes our friends or loved ones make mistakes.  Sometimes we get wrapped up in the choices and business of our friends and loved ones.  We think we know for certain all the ways they’re doing it all wrong.

Assuming I know what’s best for someone else means I am out of my own business.  And, trust me, keeping my nose squarely in my own business is a full time job.  Interestingly, it always seems easier to focus on other people’s shortcomings than it is to deal with my own shit.  I feel so much smarter when I know exactly the way someone else should live their life.  If I simply focus on my own life, though, I remember that decision making and this-thing-called-life aren’t near as easy when approached genuinely and honestly.  Focusing on my own life means I stay out of your business and stay in my own business.  I trust that you are an expert on you and I stay unattached to the outcome of your life.

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I talk to various people almost daily about the burdens they carry with them.  I have days when I assume I know what’s best for them.  Those are the days my pride sneaks into the driver’s seat when I’m not looking.  When I get my ego out of the soup and put my pride back in check, that’s when I am the most use for my friends and loved ones.

How can I possibly help someone if I already assume I know what’s best for them?

Putting myself in another’s business means I’m out of my own business; and the results certainly won’t be pretty.

I have people close to me who are dealing with some real heavy stuff!  Some of you know a few of the stories I know and you’re aware of just how heavy they are.  I have heard many other stories of heavy stuff that most would never fathom.  People carry burdens that are deeper, darker, heavier, and uglier than we could imagine.

What good does it possibly do to pass judgment on someone else?

It would seem easy to get down on the world with so much pain and heartache around every corner.  Trust me; I get it.  I understand why people get depressed, use drugs, become alcoholics, or escape to their favorite vice.  It’s so much easier to cheer on your favorite team or yell at the politicians on TV that need to get a clue.  Running away from the pain and resigning to the heaviness of life is completely understandable.

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We are all afforded this one opportunity to make the best life possible.  Why do we let our pride get in the way of having a great life?  Why do we allow people to continue to hurt us time and time again without putting a stop to it?

What would it take for you to believe you are completely worthy of the best life possible?

Even though life can be difficult and ugly, it can be simply amazing and beautiful at the same time.  When we can strip away all the negativity and stress of our day-to-day lives, we are able to see the absolute gift that is our lives.

Last week my beautiful niece, Lyla, was brought into the world.  There is NOTHING more precious than the gift of life.  Sometimes it takes looking into the face of an innocent newborn to remind our adult brains that life is nothing short of a miracle and a gift.  When we start to view our life as a miracle, it’s amazing how fast our judgments and problems disappear.

People need people more than they need pride.  I agree!  Don’t you?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

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Baby Lyla with big brother Jackson   🙂