Happy Yoga

Great Expectations

“All expectation creates disappointment”-Steve Ross, Happy Yoga

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review of the Dickens classic. Honestly, I’ve never read the book. I’ve just watched the glorious 90s movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.But there are some similarities between the theme of that book and today’s blog topic. Each and everyone of us has expectations. There are expectations of ourselves and expectations of others. While there are merits to these expectations and they can be used as a guide to navigate relationships they can also ruin them. Both types of expectations can destroy relationships and can be set so high that they set us up for failure.

First lets talk about expectations of ourselves. From the time we are born expectations are placed on us. Who remembers what your parents expected of you? Were you expected to make all A’s, be in every extra curricular, play musical instruments, excel at a sport or two or three, be the best Christian in your youth group, never say a bad word, “act like a lady” (my favorite), be home by 10 pm, never let people see you struggle, be on top and in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g…you were expected to be the best. Maybe you were expected to be just “OK”. Not quite the over achiever but make decent grades, play one sport, “act like you have class” (another great one!). How about being the brunt of low expectations. You were expected to just get by without getting in trouble or ending up in juvenile detention, or “not being like your dad/mom” (parents have brilliant moments don’t they?).

 

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Where did those expectations come from? Who is responsible for telling us what is expected of us before they understand who we are, what are circumstances are, and where we are in the moment? Unfortunately, most people cannot answer this. Growing up I would ask my parents all the time why they believed in something or why we did certain things (most of the time it pertained to a religious aspect but sometimes it was about why they believed what they did) and all I could get was “that’s just what we do” or “that’s just how it’s always been”. I  never liked that answer. These expectations of “what is becoming of a young woman” (I got that at least 2-3 x/month) , “what love is like”, “only good girls who make all A’s get into college” or whatever else pertained to you growing up shapes how you view the world, view others, and view yourself.

In addition to familial, cultural, and societal expectations placed upon us we begin to generate our own expectations. I’ll share with you one of my expectations. I treat everyone fairly and with kindness (As much as I can I am only human). I expect for people to do the same for me. I’m a firm believer in the golden rule and the whole concept of karma (law of action). We all have expectations and place them on others whether we want to admit it or not. When someone fails my expectations and doesn’t reciprocate kindness for kindness *insert your expectation* I am hurt, disappointed, and angry.  I constantly find myself saying to my husband, “I just don’t understand how people aren’t nice”, “I don’t understand why people can’t be kind”, “I’ve been nothing but nice, considerate, and giving. What do I get in return? Nothing! Not even a thank you note!”.  I recently experienced this first hand. I was very upset that all my  hard and free work, my life, my soul was given to an institution. When it was all said and done, I gave my thank you notes, kinds words and nothing was reciprocated. I immediately lost all control and wanted to drop all contact with the institution and individual. I expected them to see my hard work and give me what I was seeking for-kindness and appreciation.After some long venting sessions with the husband I realized that they didn’t know my expectations. That not everyone shares my same opinions on how to treat people. It isn’t their problem, but mine for projecting and expecting them to be how I want them to be.   These failed expectations also lead us to judgemental behavior, “if only they were raised better they would know that is how you do x-y-z etc…”. And judging gets you no where! No one likes to be judged…

 

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So where do these expectations truly come from? Everything we know and believe is a construct of society.  For example, if you grow up in upper middle class America you are per-dispositioned to one kind of expectations–need I say more? If you are like me and grow up in the South there are plenty of expectations set upon both sexes–that’s a whole different post.  When we dive deep into finding where the construct was originated you again find a muddled mess.I never thought much about constructs and where we get our mindset till I read the book Happy Yoga by Steve Ross. Ross defines social concepts as, “a mental construct unverifiable in the moment by experience. It is a framework of thoughts and beliefs in the mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness” (17). He goes on to say, “Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred and often useless and illusory. Experience is the real thing; it occurs in the present moment. Concepts are labels that keep us thinking about the world”(18).

It is up to us to challenge our expectations and constructs. Explore where they come from and what good do they do us. Upon examining them maybe you will find that they keep you from seeing the best in people and developing relationships with others. That they do more harm than good. They actually don’t guide you but destroy you. Maybe your expectations don’t do that this going within leads you somewhere else. I’d love to know what you find.

 

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“Finding the Divine Within (Latex Gloves Not Necessary)” excerpt from “Happy Yoga”

This is a little lengthy, but definitely worth the read. The following passage is from Steve Ross’ book, Happy Yoga, that I have quoted/written from in previous entries. Of all that I have read from this book, this is without a doubt one of my favorite passages. Enjoy!

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There’s nowhere to go for the truth, there’s no one to pay, there’s nothing to do. You can only undo all that is not true. And then you discover that truth was with you all along, concealed by everything false. Then which is everlasting is just underneath everything that’s temporary. And that which is divine is hiding behind everything that is mundane. Ever play hide-and-seek? In the same way, life is like a game, or play (leela). You must endeavor to find the truth and the divine in everything.

God concealed and God revealed are ways that yogis often describe the play of consciousness in the world. Everything is God everywhere all the time. But some things seem more obviously God than others. When you watch a beautiful sunset, that’s obviously God. It would be considered God revealed. It’s a little more of a challenge to see that a war zone with bullets flying and people screaming and dying is God, too. That would be considered God concealed. Compassion, love, or any genuine celebration of life is an example of God revealed. So even though it’s all God, the yogis acknowledge that in duality, some things seem more like God than others. There are elements of the world that appear to be more of an expression of the perfection of God, of love and bliss, than others.

While an enlightened master sees that everything is God, given a option of the experience of God concealed or God revealed, there’s usually a preference twoard God revealed-love, compassion, freedom, bliss, truth-you get the picture.

God revealed is a little taste of the infinite, but so is God concealed; it just requires an able eye to see it. Yogis say that there’s a big picture-and it’s huge. An individual can only see a tiny piece of a this big picture. So you might look at your tiny piece and think, “What the hell is this? This doesn’t look like anything! This looks like non-sense, fear, pain!” But when you see it in the context of the huge, enormous, gigantic, big picture, it all makes sense. Aha! Through love, compassion, surrender, allowing, forgiveness, joy, and other aspects of God revealed, you get a tiny glimpse of the big picture. But if you’re stuck in a world where God is concealed through resistance, anger, hatred, violence, loathing, and so on, you’re stuck with those little tidbits of the big picture that don’t look like much.

What about experiences that seem like God revealed at first but later reveal themselves as God concealed? The drug heroin, for example, induces deep peace for some people-at first. Then it slowly ruins your entire life by destroying your body, depleting your finances, and, of course, requiring larger and larger doses to make you feel normal. Any recovering user will tell you the same story. This is true of many elements in the world. The yogis say these aspects of worldly life are like poison honey. The first symptom might be sweet, but the end is bitter.

Spiritual life is like a medicinal herb: bitter in the beginning, sweet in the end. Becoming conscious can initially be challenging. But once you get rolling, your life becomes peaceful, blissful, and much sweeter for your efforts.

How can a yogi experience God revealed all the time? God is what you are. The more you can let go of excessive thinking, the more you’ll experience it. To reveal the God energy that you are, accept each moment. Acknowledge each moment as sacred. Don’t resist what it is. Look past the appearance through to the God just underneath.

Many yoga students are able to attain beautiful states of peace in yoga class, especially at the deeply relaxing end in shavasana. They experience God revealed when they feel happy and light, bliss pulsing through their bodies. But the moment they walk through the door and back into the real world, they get sucked back into the outward chaos of their lives and the inward chaos of their minds (God concealed). Pick up the kids from school, is the husband happy? Massage at six, make sure the business is running smoothly, do I have enough money? I want to be single, I want to be in a relationship, are my kids smart enough? My mother’s in the hospital, and on and on and on and on. This kind of activity could continue for the rest of your life, accelerating and picking up momentum like an avalanche. It can drive you insane or it can provoke inner surrender.

What’s going to happen is going to happen. You can do what you can about it, but compulsive thought will only make it worse. Why not let go? If it succeeds in blissing you out at the end of yoga class, why not try it in your life? Do what you can and release the rest.

Your life is perfect as it is. Every aspect is exactly as it should be, pointing you precisely in the direction you’re meant to go. Whether you are able to see it or not depends on how resistant you are to what is. Whether you can see it as God revealed or God concealed is a result of your point of view. What might seem like problems may actually be invitations for change. To reside as love, joy, compassion, stillness, and grace is to reside as the divine within and without. And this is true yoga.

Happy Yoga- Steve Ross

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Yoga Teacher Training begins in August. I am super excited that finally after seven years of waiting, God has finally opened the doors and made it possible for me to begin my journey on becoming a RYT (registered yoga teacher) through Yoga Alliance. I knew from the time I was 18 that I was meant to be a yoga teacher. There is something about yoga that is mystical and transforming. It is freeing and peaceful. Yoga has the ability to open up doors mentally, physically, and spiritually. Yoga has also played a HUGE part in my recovery, which I hope to one day pay it forward by becoming a yoga therapist and helping those with ED’s or addictions via yoga and even dance-movement therapy. As part of the prepping process, I have to read books (just like I did for college and high school). I finally have started reading this process. I decided to start with the book Happy Yoga by Steve Ross. I liked the cover and it seemed like a good one to start with. In the book he goes over seven reasons why there is nothing to worry about and how yoga can help shape these worries into a new part of life. I really liked the first part of the book and I wanted to share it with everyone out there in the blog world. Here ya go…

*The depth of your awareness determines your potential for joy, freedom, and power.

*True yoga is meant to be lived.

*All human beings are yogis, whether they know it or not. A yogi seeks the ultimate fulfillment, and I’ve never met anyone who isn’t looking for fulfillment in one way or another.

*There’s nothing to worry about. You are whole, complete, perfect, beautiful, loving, blissful, and you know everything there is to know.

*A concept is a mental construct unverifiable in the moment by experience. It is a framework of thoughts and beliefs in the mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness.

*Words can make a feeble attempt to capture the experience and describe it, but nothing matches the truth of being there. That’s the reality! Your experience is your experience-the pure, ultimate, untainted truth.

*But what the heart knows to be true, what you know deep in your bones, and what you have personally experienced will be closer to the truth than any dry, secondhand delusion.

*Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred and often useless and illusory. Experience is the real thing; it occurs in the present moment. Concepts are labels that keep us thinking about the world, thereby preventing us from experiencing the world as it is.

*The essence of yoga practice is learning to connect to the universe yourself…A true teacher will guide you toward experiencing your oneness with all that is.

*Approval comes from within. If you can’t approve of yourself, then all is lost. The whole world can be on your side, but if you’re not on your side, then what’s the point?

*Yoga at its best frees us from the prison of our concepts, relentless wanting, habits, and reactions, turning every experience, any circumstance, into bliss.

*Where you direct your attention, that you also direct your life force. So if you’re primarily aware of your thoughts, worry, or intellect (that’s most people), that’s where most of your energy will dwell. Accordingly, thought, worry, and intellectual pondering will be the predominant experience of your life. As you direct your attention into the body, not by thinking about the body, but by becoming aware of sensations in your toes, fingertips, stomach, heart, and so on, your life force will flow into these areas. Your experience becomes more sensual and complete. Your mind might seem extremely intelligent, but the mind alone is an incomplete life tool. The body has a deeper wisdom and intuition to offer. Experiencing your entire being benefits your physical health, deepens your sense of well-being, gives you more energy, and stimulates creativity.

*Your body has the potential to bring you big fun if you let it.