In the fuzzy light of sometime past midnight, my daughter crept through the gloom to the kitchen. Fumbling open the fridge door she reached for the jar of cherries tucked away on the top shelf. Slowly slowly she unscrewed the lid….Trying so hard not to make a sound, she took a BIG gulp of the sweet, sweet liquid inside. Except she was in for a big surprise… In her sleepy mission, she’d miscalculated. Instead of the delicious nectar of her dreams, her mouth was on fire with the hot hot taste of chilli jalapeño brine.
Sometimes you don’t get what you expect
It seems obvious that sometimes your best laid plans go awry. We all experience it at some point. But there’s something about that awful moment of realisation that feels doubly painful. It’s not just that things went wrong. It’s the gap between what we were expecting and what we got. In my daughters case that meant frantically gulping milk and covering her mouth to try and stop herself from cursing (and being busted for fridge raiding!).
But what can you do to reduce the suffering?
I reckon we all know a thing or two about dashed expectations over this last few years. Whether through lost experiences, shattered plans or separation from loved ones, no one escaped unscathed from the pandemic and the turbulent times since then. But what is it that means some people suffer more acutely than others from the expectation gap? It’s an age old question. In the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?” So the question is, should we accept the things that make us suffer or resist them?
Letting go of Judgement is HARD
Sometimes it’s really not easy to allow that gap to be experienced. That space between what we want and what happens is tricky. We don’t want a mouthful of spicy brine, we want sweet juicy sugar syrup! We need acceptance and non judgement but they sometimes need conscious effort to cultivate.
Baby Steps to Buddha like calm
So when the sh*t hits the fan (or the chilli juice hits your tongue), what can you do to smooth the ride? Step 1: PAUSE Those words uttered by Hamlet are a great start. To Be. It’s hard to be ok with things if we don’t actually stay present. Racing into doing (and distraction) is often our default but it doesn’t let us process what we feel. So can you let yourself be with what’s happening? To get to non judgement and letting go of needing things to be a certain way, we need to allow space for the opposite. When you pause, you might become really aware of the thoughts you have about the situation. “This is so unfair”, “this shouldn’t be happening”, “this sucks” “what should I do?” The good news is, they’re just thoughts….
Step 2: Acknowledge So now we’ve seen that a bunch of thoughts have shown up. (Hello there judging mind, I see you! 👋🏻) Now is the time to notice that there’s the situation and then there’s your thoughts about the situation. They’re two separate things. Often it’s the thoughts that make the situation painful or uncomfortable - or they make it worse! Beginning to separate the two is the start of dismantling that suffering.
Step 3: Be Kind! This last step might feel a little awkward. Most of us are more used to berating and being cruel to ourselves in our inner dialogue. But the final layer of our suffering comes from the self directed judgement. “I’m an idiot! I should have been more careful. I’m so useless. I’m always messing things up” If we can change the language and tone we use to talk to ourselves it makes all the difference: “This is hard. I’m so sorry it feels this way. Other people mess up too”
How about you?
How do you reduce the pain when things go wrong? Do you find yourself tangled up in your thoughts and struggling to keep perspective? Or maybe rushing to keep busy so you don't have to feel it all?
In the Be. membership, building the knowledge and skills to handle whatever life throws at us is one part of what we do. It's hard to go about creating the life you DO want if you constantly get derailed.
Here's a practice for you to try from the membership library that's designed to help you get space from your thoughts:
I'd love to help you to build a toolkit to help you - come and check out the Be. Membership subscription, which you can access from the app. Talk soon
Laura @ Be. x
“In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal – quite the opposite. We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is.” - Pema Chödrön