In my last post on how to be gentle with ourselves and still get things done, I mentioned we have to let go of outcomes. Outcomes. Expectations. Desire for things to be a certain way. Easier said than done sometimes. I wrestle with this pretty consistently. I’ve found you can intellectually know a thing, but the only way to make it stick, to truly understand it is to practice with it over and over.
Pretty consistently – once or twice a week – I find myself in agony because I’m trying to control stuff. Then I spend the rest of the week practicing what I know in my heart to be true so I can enjoy what is as it is. That’s what I want to share with you in this post.
I was watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory last night where Raj was on a date. His friends laughed at him when he said they were keeping it casual because he’s notorious for planning out everything – right down to the babies they are going to have. Ever done that?
I figure there are two ways to come at this.
- Do it and live with whatever may happen based on that choice.
- Or do what is more comfortable if I can’t live with the uncertainty of that choice.
Either way, I let go of my control over the situation. I can’t say that by X date, I will achieve X. All I have control over is the moment I’m in. I get to choose if I bring my full attention.
How do we let go of our expectations and still plan our lives?
My friends and I talk about this a lot. Some of us are compulsive list makers. There are people like me who journal as our process to sort out the moment. Others I know use visualization. I wonder if we all use these as an attempt at controlling ourselves, keeping ourselves in check.
What it really boils down to is are we operating from ambition or from aspiration? Ambition is about outcomes and end results, as if we can predict that. It’s about the future, not the present.
Aspiration, on the other hand, is about something bigger than you. You give more than you receive. You are more fearless and present. It comes from being on the spot, fresh in the moment. To aspire means you are open to the possibility of right now. Love isn’t something you do in the future. It’s what you do now. Thinking about doing something instead of doing it creates a loop. If I spend my time journaling or thinking about what I want my writing to achieve instead of just doing the work, I’m future-spinning. What I do right now is what matters. Plan or do? Trust your wisdom to get things done for the right reasons.
So, why do we plan? Why do we create lists, whether mental or written down?
If we are about the result instead of the process, it’s more likely ambition and control. Even when we are trying to accomplish good things, it’s important to check in and notice the motivation. Such a tenuous balance.
What does it have to do with letting go of expectation? Things change. My mind changes from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. about what I can get done in a day. At the end of the day, is it going to be more important for me to work longer or be with the one I love because of that love? Or is it laziness and procrastination?
I’ve grown used to my own trip, having watched it from the meditation cushion for a long time. I know where I’m coming from. Somedays, ego keeps me on the couch and sometimes it has me at my computer working on a project. And somedays, those motions come from aspiration and gentleness.
The key is to know yourself and then operate from the wisdom of the moment.
The wisdom of now.
Maybe you don’t have years of sitting on a meditation cushion or doing a contemplative, reflective practice that’s given you a better idea of why you do what you do. That’s okay. You can start right here and it is so easy. Ready?
Take a breath then let it out.
Now, slowly and gently, notice the breath as you inhale again. Nice and easy. Keep your attention on the breath as you let it out.
You’ve just meditated.
How did that feel?
You’ve just contemplated.
Can you do this process a few times throughout your day?
That’s practice. It starts with one breath and a moment of noticing. It’s the gentlest gift you’ll ever give yourself. As you start to play with this, things might shift in your awareness. I can’t tell you what so you’ll have to give it a whirl and see for yourself. Then write to me and share it because I genuinely want to hear about it.
But how do I let go of my expectations? It’s a tiny shift in perception towards right here, right now. Almost a physical change in view. When I come back to the present moment, I turn my mind’s eye toward now, notice my body, my breath, my fingers. I notice my thought patterns but stay in contact with what is in front of me. This is Phase 1 as we work with getting familiar. Eventually, we drop the noticing – the observer – and are simply present. I’m not there yet most of the time. So, I keep practicing.
Have you ever caught yourself staring off into space or looking into the future in your mind? It’s the difference between being carried away on a fantasy and visualizing grounding your whole self in the moment. Do you visualize completing a task? Do you visualize your open heart, mind, and body doing what this moment calls for?
There is organization and then there is allowing the wisdom of the moment to direct you. Things need to get done in order to live in a society. I’m a very impromptu person. I would prefer if I could send out psychic invitations to my friends to just show up on my doorstep for coffee. But I have to ask them, let them know a time and place. Some people like to do that two weeks in advance or two months in advance. I may miss out on opportunities to be with people because I don’t operate that way very often. People have busy lives with so much going on that they like to put things on the calendar. Calendars give me the heebie-jeebies, but I’m learning that I can do a little (very little) planning and still be in the moment, still let go of the outcome.
How can we let go of the outcome?
- Be. Open, generous, aware, kind to yourself. Even if you are crabby or the weather affects you. (or in my case, the full moon). There is exquisite richness in being aware that you feel like a real jerk. Ask why. Ask again. Be an explorer, go on an adventure with yourself. Causes and conditions create who we show up as. But. BUT. We get to take a breath and open over and over again. Next time you notice yourself being uncomfortable in any way, think about when was the last time you took a good breath? Then take one.
- Let others Be. How they show up in the moment is a reflection of their causes and conditions and whatever amount of awareness they bring to the situation. You only get to choose how you respond. And it is a choice.
- Trust your wisdom and intuition. This comes from knowing yourself and allowing. Do what arises from your intuition (which is different from instinct).
- Be with the experience fully, wholly. For instance, as I write this, my hands are freezing because it is 62 degrees in here. I take a breath at the end of each sentence. I write the next one. I’m noticing the clock and my body’s response to how much time I have left to work on this. I’m not racing against the clock, but I am working steadily.
- And as, I wrote in the last post, let go of the expectation for the end result. Wisdom is already within you. Tap into it. Que sera, sera. Do what needs doing, be curious about this moment, and drop whatever you think it might lead to. Keep practicing.
- Planning isn’t necessarily bad, and neither is not planning. You plan for a trip or to finish a job for a client. It’s about noticing why you do those things, not doing things mindlessly or for the wrong reasons. Don’t forgo planning because you are being lazy or afraid or avoiding. But don’t stay busy with it for those same reasons.
I hope this helps you today. Leave a comment and share what challenges you have with this. I’d love to hear from you.