Exploring Our Expectations and Commitment

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Dear Still Water Friends,


Exploring Our Expectations and Commitment
Thursday, August 6, 2009


Dear Friends,

This Thursday we’ll discuss our expectations from and commitment to mindfulness practice. Why do we practice, and what do we expect to achieve or obtain from practicing? Does our commitment to our practice reflect these expectations?

This topic came alive for me when I was struggling at the gym last week. The weights seemed heavier than normal and I was tired after only doing a couple of sets. Why? It was really humid that day, I was tired from a long bike ride the day before, and–oh yeah–I hadn’t been lifting weights regularly. But I’d been lifting for 20 years, so letting up a bit in my routine couldn’t be the issue–certainly it must be the heat and fatigue, I thought. 

As I went to the water fountain, I saw the Quote of the Day, this one from Flip Wilson: "If you want to hit the jackpot, you have to put a few nickels in the machine." I chuckled. But then I felt a flush of recognition. I had been expecting that I could coast or even cut back on my exercise yet maintain the same conditioning. How exactly that was supposed to work I hadn’t figured out, but I assumed that I had put enough into my routine that I could back off without any ramifications. There was even a sense of entitlement behind the expectation.

I recognize this pattern in my practice too. Sometimes I have very high expectations and practice diligently, but it’s goal driven with the hope that I’ll have some breakthrough. That doesn’t work so well. Other times I take the foot off the accelerator, start to coast, and then wonder why I’m slowing down. I sometimes struggle to find the middle ground of just practicing.

This Thursday we’ll discuss what expectations we have of our practice and how our commitments reflect those expectations. Are we practicing to be calmer? To change our lives? To change the world? Do we expect incremental progress or strokes of insight or both? Are our expectations acting to encourage us in our practice or frustrate us?

Also, this Thursday is the first Thursday of the month. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., we will be offering a brief orientation to mindfulness practice and the Still Water community. If you would like to attend, it is helpful to let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.

I hope you can join us,

Scott Schang

To what do we really commit ourselves? Is it to playing it safe and manipulating our life and our whole world so that it will give us security and confirmation? Or is our commitment to deeper and deeper levels of maitri [loving kindness]? The question always remains: In what do we take refuge? Do we take refuge in small, self-satisfied actions, speech, and mind? Or do we take refuge in warriorship, in taking a leap, in going beyond our usual safety zones?

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart