Expectations

What do expectations do?

It’s been an intriguing question for me, and I’ve spent a great deal of time considering it. Considering, but not coming to any real conclusions…until today.

Expectations appear to jeopardize my success. They block my progress forward, making it harder to experience what I am hopeful about. They are harmful things because they are projections of an uncertain future and are not easily controllable.

When I create expectations there is a tendency to generalize them, which makes any evaluation of their success difficult. Worse still, I tend to attach my sense of happiness to them.

Expectations also create fear for me. Fear of not experiencing them exactly as I would like.

Often, I have a sense of what my expectations are, but I don’t write them down and recognize them. I don’t take specific actions steps to make them happen. I just expect them to occur on their own because that’s what I want. Truly, a recipe for failure.

I will be the facilitator of a retreat soon and I’m sensing an inner concern about meeting both the groups and my own expectations.

While considering this I feel guided to write down what I expect will happen. I come up with nine items and upon review, I notice that I have absolutely no control over the outcomes for five of the items and only limited control over the other four. I might be able to enhance the chances of meeting some expectations, but this seems entirely uncertain.

I also notice that if I allow my happiness to be conditional on successfully meeting my own and others’ expectations, I will be doomed to failure.

It becomes apparent that there are two key elements involved here. First, my setting any expectations, even if they are specific enough to be recognizable, creates a certain degree of fear. And second, it is evident that I have no real control over what will happen for any participant or for myself, which produces even more fear in me.

That’s when a beautiful thing happened.

I realize that in all cases, fear serves as a divine messenger for me. In this case it creates legitimate clarity because it brings home the message that neither setting expectations nor controlling outcomes is where I want to focus my attention.

Recognizing my fear allows me to widen my view, to take notice and to shift my awareness from what I can’t do to what I can do.

I can’t meet all of my own expectations nor those of others because I don’t have control over any outcomes. Life is too complex and fluid for that. And I can’t guarantee my happiness when it is tied to achieving all of my expectations. My vested interest if just too strong.

I can however release my perceived need for setting or accomplishing any expectations. I can embrace being present in each moment, realizing there is inherent value in simply loving myself and others and going with the flow of life.

When I am ‘in the moment’ and fully engaged I can be vested in the creation of depth of connection with and for others and myself. That’s when I experience joy and for me that’s what this world is all about.

Joy

Do you think there is a difference between happiness and joy? Or do they seem like the same thing to you?

I admit that in the past I was confused about the difference between the two terms, or I used them interchangeably, until one conversation occurred with a friend of mine. He shared that, for him, joy was a much deeper feeling. It gave me pause and inspired me to reconsider my views.

While I love both feelings and enjoy their power, I believe one is far more important to me than the other.

Happiness seems to come from the outside, while joy comes from the inside. Happiness is triggered by all sorts of things I encounter in the world, while joy feels like an overflowing of love from my heart.

There are things and events which create and produce both feelings. Personally, I find happiness is short lived when compared with joy. Sometimes happiness feels like a present I’ve dreamed about but once I have it, its power fades, and I’m looking for the next thing to make me happy.

When joy arrives, its power remains with me, and I feel its love radiate through me. Although my life moves on, the memories of the joy linger and will easily return, if I bring them to mind.

So, what about you? Do moments of joy visit you and stay with you? Would you like there to be more moments of joy in your life?

If I answered my own question, my response would be, ‘yes, absolutely I want as many moments of joy as possible.’

You can probably guess my next question.

What would bring about more moments of joy?

Part of me is always pragmatic, searching for an approach that supports me and brings into my life that which I most treasure. In this case that would be to create and experience more and more moments of joy.

I sat back one day and let a calmness wash over me. I opened my heart and encouraged myself to allow my love to overflow. I did this because I know that joy responds to this call. It lives within me but wants to be unleashed into my world.

I believe that joy lives inside each of us, ever present no matter what our outward experience of life is. And perhaps it wants to spark and ignite into existence when we are down and need it the most. But we have to allow this. We have to open the pipeline, and the wider the better. We are the ones in charge of clearing the way.

I wanted to know if there was something specific I could do to enhance joy’s presence in my life. As soon as I asked the question, the answer appeared…give yourself the gift of illumination…and create a memory list of moments of joy.

I thought…what a phenomenal idea. And what started out as a simple list, expanded into thoughts of a joy journal or a joy scrapbook.

Something inside me caught fire.

One recollection ran into the next and then cascaded, filling page after page. It was as if I had opened a treasure chest of joy. What a sensational feeling.

One of the best parts of this experience is that I can share it with you. I am absolutely convinced that we all have the power to overflow joy into our lives and into the lives of those who surround us. We are connected to each other, both here and beyond and joy is one of our most intimate languages.

I hope you call forth the joy that lives in your heart and let it overflow into your life.

When Kindness Comes From Joy

Have you ever wondered where kindness comes from? Is it innately inside each one of us or does something need to happen before it appears?

It feels to me that we operate with different definitions and ideas about kindness.

I say this because I recently heard someone suggest that ‘we should be kinder than necessary’. While I appreciate the idea that kindness is important, two things about this statement challenge me.

The first is the use of the word ‘should’. Personally, I’ve gone to great lengths to eliminate this word from my vocabulary, because it is a ‘shaming’ word, meant to enforce one person’s opinion on another.

I wonder if you react the same way that I do when ‘should’ is used. I am immediately suspicious of the motivation of the one using it. Why do they think I ‘should’?

The second concern I have about this statement is the word ‘necessary’. I have a difficult time reconciling the use of the words kindness and necessary in the same sentence. The implication being that there is some sort of requirement or obligation involved with kindness. That isn’t how I conceive of kindness.

I went looking for references to kindness and found one that seemed to mesh with my understanding. It suggested that it is any selfless act of caring or compassion and can easily be recognized in both our own or others large and small actions.

I wondered how often kindness flows to me and through me. I paused for a few minutes to see what would come.

If you sat back right now for a moment or two, what do you think would come to you?

Two events jumped to the head of the line for me. In each instance they were infused with joy, not only for the receiver, but also for the giver. And it seemed to me that joy was the real source for the acts of kindness. I recognized a deliberateness to the actions, a meaningful opening to spirit and a flowing from abundance, as if kindness was an endless source.

I’d like to share mine with you in the hopes that you see some of your own and let them wrap you up in a feeling of joy.

The first one happened a few weeks ago while I was at a workshop at Kripalu Retreat Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. After classes were over for the day our group decided to get together in the evening for a kind of impromptu ‘talent show’. One of my friends, whom I’d met six years earlier at the same workshop, stood up and mesmerized the group with her divine performance poetry reading. We sat spellbound. I could not believe the incredible growth in my friend and went over to her; hugged her and told her I was so proud of her. Some might view this as an act of kindness, but she and I knew it was more than that because it came from a deep well of joy we share.

A few days later I received an email from her with an attached video of her reading a poem she wrote just for me. I was touched to my very core and a kindness born of joy was returned to me.

The second event happened a few days ago, while my wife and I were on a day trip together. We stopped at a restaurant my parents loved to visit and sat down at an empty table. Our waitress came over and engaged us in a conversation and asked if she could get us something to drink. When she returned, she inquired if we were ready to order. She took my wife’s order and turned to me. I said I’d like to start with a piece of their coconut cream pie (knowing that they sometimes run out of it). She told me she liked the way I ordered the best first and from there we had an extremely pleasant exchange throughout the meal.

After our meal was over and she came to our table with our bill, I told her that I was awarding her my ‘best waitstaff of the year award’. She absolutely beamed with pleasure and told me I’d made her whole day…maybe her whole week, as she went to help the next customer.

I took the paper ring that encircled my napkin and silverware and made it into a small award certificate for her and gave her a tip that matched our bill total. I handed everything to her, and my wife and I started walking out. She ran after us and called out to me, that she was going to keep the certificate forever and that I’d made her whole year!

There was such joy in her voice, and I knew that my simple act of kindness came from joy and reached out to create more joy.

Each of these things are important to me because they represent a connection to our divine source, where joy and love exist in abundance.

Celebration

I wanted to wish you all a happy anniversary because this post marks the beginning of my third year of offering posts to you to contemplate. So, happy anniversary!

I never believed I would be able to stick with my original commitment of writing two posts per week for this long. It feels like an amazing thing to me and if you’ve been with me for the whole trip or just joined me recently, I want to thank you for journeying with me.

At first, I thought I was writing these posts for YOU, but I’ve come to discover that the truth is I’m writing them for ME. They are a way of speaking what feels like the ‘truth’ to me. Most of them help me see the world and my place in it more clearly. I want that for me, but I also want that for you. I am always aware that, once I’ve placed words on the page, they become your words too, if you want them.

I feel we are connected, and I treasure that you are here with me. I wanted you to know that, to hold that inside for a moment, and know that I care about you and celebrate you.

This day feels different to me from other days.

Do certain days feel different to you, perhaps because something special occurred, something unique in your world? When this happens, do you celebrate, or give gratitude for your blessed fortune?

I don’t always. I let some beautiful events and days slip past me. I am poorer for this and encourage myself to pay better attention, to broaden my awareness and let joy overwhelm me.

When is the last time you let joy overwhelm you, when you actually sat back and allowed love to move freely from the inside of you to the outside of you?

If it’s been a long time, perhaps you’re ready to jump start the process. Maybe today is a great day to celebrate, to make into an anniversary of joy. Do you want to give it a try?

Yes, I mean right now in this moment.

I’m going to ‘assume’ you said, ‘yes’! I’m hoping you said, ‘yes’.

Okay, if you’re ready, let’s begin with this…

Tell me, who do you love? You don’t have to shout it out loud but bring the person or animal to mind and let your love overflow. Really, let it pour out of you and feel the pleasure it creates.

And maybe it’s not a who. Maybe it’s a what or a where. A wonderful gift you love or a place that feels sacred to you. Allow the intensity to build and burst forth. It’s okay to let go of our normal day to day ways and give ourselves this treat.

Perhaps it is a feeling or a thought that creates a special sensation inside of you. If it is, go with that, let it move and grow and explode into wonder.

I have a friend, John, who taught me a lot about the gift of celebration. About seeing the value and worth in all things. After listening carefully to my story, he would find something in it to cherish and celebrate, even and sometimes, especially what I considered the ‘bad stuff’. Many of his observations passed right by me. I didn’t hear what he was really saying, until one day, it dawned on me. He saw the truth that everything in life ‘serves you’ if you put it into the ‘right’ perspective.

He showed me that I could learn to celebrate anything and everything, because it’s all important and valuable.

So, today, I encourage you to give yourself the chance to celebrate anything and everything in your life and see where it takes you.

I hope along the way, joy comes for a visit.

Making Someone’s Day

Do you remember the last time someone ‘made your day’ and how you felt inside?

Can you remember a time you made someone else’s day? Was it something you said, perhaps some kind words. Or maybe it was something you did, like an unexpected, good deed.

Did it happen naturally, without any forethought or was it a conscious choice you made and planned?

Did any part of you wonder what you might get in return or was it an altruistic act, kindness for the sake of kindness?

One of the interesting things about either, making someone else’s day or someone making your day, is how deep the love feels. I’ve often experienced feeling intensely touched by the actions of others. Their actions don’t even need to be directed toward me. Just witnessing love in action is wonderful, no matter where it’s found.

This past Sunday, while driving on our way home from the local food co-op, my wife and I were approaching a traffic light and it turned red, giving me a chance to make a roadside donation. That’s my phrase for offering some money to someone by the side of the road. In this case, it was a couple. I handed the folded twenty I keep in my car door for this purpose, to the young woman standing closest to our car. She reached for the money and offered me a grateful smile and their thanks in return. The traffic light remained red for a long time, which gave her the opportunity to explain that she and her husband were on their way back home to Louisiana and this would be very helpful.

I know some folks think giving money to ‘pan-handlers’ (the term most often applied to someone asking for money by the side of the road), isn’t a very good idea. I respect their point of view, and yet have come to a different conclusion and from my experience it’s a sure way to ‘make someone’s day’, no matter what they use the money for. I have offered myself a lot of practice in fully releasing any strings I might have wanted to attach to the money and so, both the giver and receiver in this exchange can share in making each other’s day.

Awhile back, a friend of mine told me she reads a book I’ve wrote (Little Buddha Book One) every night before she goes to bed. She told me it makes her happy, calms her from her day and allows her to drift off to sleep smiling. These kind words not only made my day, but they brought tears to my eyes. As a writer, unless someone tells you, you never know if your writings mean anything to anyone, so it was a very precious gift to me.

Knowing how good making someone’s day feels, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. I need an answer to this question.

What could it be? Is life so filled with ‘necessary things’ that I don’t have any time left over?

I immediately poked a hole in this theory. The two exchanges I’ve mentioned in this post account for perhaps four minutes in total, which easily tells me I DO have the time.

So, what’s the real reason?

I think it’s pretty simple actually. It’s a lack of focus on my part, an absence of attention to things that could matter greatly to me in my life and to others I come into contact with. I don’t say this to criticize myself (or you by proxy, as a reader). I say this to myself to heighten my awareness of what is, or can be, important and deeply meaningful to me in my life.

Sometimes all it takes is a moment of recognition that making someone’s day is a pathway for love to enter the world. A simple, direct, heart touching way and it’s free for anyone who wants it.

What a blessing.

Ideas

Here’s a mystery for you to consider.

Where do ideas come from?

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the number of ideas that come to me. Far more arrive than I feel I can actually accomplish, despite wanting them all to become real.

At other times, no single idea stands out. There is just a swirl of activity inside me, but no clarity whatsoever.

It’s hard to make sense of this phenomenon.

Recently I was experiencing a wave of wonderful ideas and wondering what to do with them all. I found it very challenging to prioritize them or organize them in any meaningful way.

Maybe there are times when this happens to you too.

As usual I decided to ask my divine guide, Lia (which stands for Love In Action), a part of god who speaks to me in an ethereal feminine voice, to help me understand what was happening.

She told me to think of ‘ideas’ as menu choices and to choose the one (or ones) that most appeal to me. The ones that deeply absorb me or that I feel drawn to create or simply find the most joy in.

She went on to say that it was very important to realize that I might feel a sense of obligation or stress or some other negative emotion during the process of bringing an idea to life. She counseled me to release any idea that produced these feelings.

I guess Lia felt it would be helpful to provide an example that would stand out for me, and she did.

She said it would be like my going to a delightful restaurant and ordering liver and onions, which I can’t stand, and forcing myself to eat it. Ugh! Point taken.

Lia went on to say that all of the ideas I receive are flowing ‘to me and through me’ to have a voice in the world, if I choose to give them one. And before I could respond, she added, that if I chose not to act on any of the ideas, they would travel on and find a ‘home’ elsewhere. No worries.

This prompted a question in my mind about the nature of ideas.

“So, all these ideas are on a journey of their own, headed into reality, but not necessarily by or through me?”

Lia responded, “Yes, ideas have a life of their own and will seek out those that wish to bring them to into reality. Remember, even though you don’t like liver and onions, someone else thinks it’s a wonderful meal.”

This put an entirely different spin on things for me. I’d been feeling pressure to give every idea that came my way a life. And here was Lia telling me that it was not necessary, nor even beneficial for me to feel this way.

She encouraged me to consider how often it happens that the same movie or book themes take center stage or that the same invention happens, but in different countries across the globe.

Lia explained that ideas are energy in movement. They seek out those that are likely to be receptive, sometimes appearing once and other times coming back repeatedly.

I confessed that, at times, I feel so limited and can only help a few ideas become realized.

Lia responded by saying, “This is not true, you are not limited, but if it feels true for you, it becomes true for you. I encourage you to allow yourself the emotional freedom to give life to what moves you with joy and release anything that does not come from joy. When you use this principle as your barometer, all is well.”

Why Are You Here

I’d like to propose a radical idea for you to consider.

Here it is.

You are here to experience JOY.

Sure, I know that sounds crazy. You could say to me, look around, don’t you see what’s happening these days? It’s a fractured world. There’s climate change, political upheaval, war and the resulting horrors, drastic economic shifts.

You could ask me; how do you expect me to be happy and feel joyful?

And then you could say to me…are you mad?

Part of me is likely to respond that I can’t find much joy in this life either. I have my own list of prohibitions to joy and a host of prerequisites before I will allow myself to honestly answer that I feel any ongoing sense of joy.

But another part of me refuses to give up on this idea. It asks me to look deeper within myself and reveal a greater truth than what appears on the surface.

Yes, I see the challenges. I feel the pressures to perform, to possess, to acquire, to say out loud that I am happy and fulfilled. I fully sense my limits, physically, emotionally, financially, and mentally. And they weigh a ton. I know they do.

I’ve come to recognize that so much of what I see in the world is driven by fear and it forces me to ask the question over and over again…why am I here?

There is a strong part of me that wants to know my answer, or is it answers?

Each time this happens, some sort of list appears, as if completing it will provide satisfaction, a sense of completeness or elemental clarity for me.

It hasn’t. It doesn’t.

Maybe the same thing happens to you. Maybe you also associate ‘what you do’ with ‘who you are’, so that the more you accomplish, the better you can feel about yourself. Maybe you too seek to answer the question of why you are here with specific goals you set and meet. And perhaps you are just as unsatisfied with this approach as I am.

Perhaps you are ready for a shift in perspective. And maybe it will take something radical to make this happen.

Well, here’s something you may want to consider. Since fear doesn’t work, how about trying love?

The love I’m talking about is expressed through a genuine sense of joy. I’m not speaking about happiness, which can be fleeting and easily overcome by the world. Instead, I’m speaking about a profound inner belief that we are each here to experience and express joy.

What does that mean?

My personal answer is that it will be different for each person because what brings joy to one is not the same as what brings joy to another.

Then how is joy found?

Here’s a shocker. I don’t believe joy can be ‘found’, because this implies it is OUTSIDE of us, hidden somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

What feels like the truth to me is that joy is INSIDE each of us and is revealed when we center on love.  I see that fear is only a messenger and it guides by showing us what does not work, but it cannot tell us why we are here, because only love can do that.

So, what is the radical path I am suggesting?

It will take a little time, but it will be worth it. I promise.

It starts like so many other paths, with breathing in and out slowly, deeply, quietly, allowing your body to relax. It starts by closing your eyes and letting the world fade away, and then opening your heart and saying ‘yes’ to going deeper inside yourself (your self) and asking what brings out the joy in you? What makes you feel the most alive? I suggest the answer to these questions are also the answers to why you are here.

I’ll share some of my joys to get you started…I am here to help others find their own path. I am here to speak my truth (each of my books and these website posts are my attempts to share with you). I am here to connect deeply with family and friends, and to both give and receive love. I am here to get lost in the beauty of the natural world and I am here to live as an extension of the divine for as many days as I walk this earth.

If you give yourself some time, I believe you will reveal the truth about why you are here and how joy creates the spark for all things to happen in your life.