Most of us, on a day-to-day basis, go though life carried along by a constant stream of expectations. In fact, these expectations are so common to our sense of self and its well-being that we barely even realize we have them until we run into something that dashes them. For proof of this, haven't you ever been surprised at how upset you can become over the smallest change in how someone treats you? Or what goes through you when, perhaps, the street you usually take to get to work is closed for repairs? Seen from this vantage point, our lives reveal at least one great truth about the way we see events: Almost anything we encounter that is unexpected is usually construed as something negative.
This discovery has far-reaching implications for anyone wishing to walk the spiritual path, because -- simply put -- the heart and soul, foundation and rafters of the true spiritual life is the unexpected. Let's take a closer look at this finding.
We have all had those moments in our lives where something unexpected came to us and, pouring itself in, left us breathless... perhaps as simple as rounding a bend and catching sight of a distant, breathtaking vista, or just being in the right place to see the play of last daylight on waxen leaves waving their yellows and greens within shadow-drenched trees. Maybe there was something in that special stillness of an early morning that said, without words, "All is well." Or, for those so blessed, Grace herself made her always-welcome, unexpected appearance.
In these surprising moments you see that there is another world, another life. You realize that whatever you had thought yourself to be only the moment before is not the whole story, and that there is so much more. Everything shifts and for a moment the former is no more. The new is all there is.
But perils and promises often arrive together. Without being awake to yourself in these transformational times, an unseen want is born within you, a longing to relive or gain control over your uplifting experience. And, in the same instant as this desire takes shape, another expectation is created.
This same expectation for spiritual grace effectively keeps you from those experiences that can only come unexpectedly. And until you can recognize and release these parts of yourself at the root of this unconscious inner runaround, you are trapped in a circle of wants.
To want is to expect. To expect is to know. To know is to have already experienced. To have already experienced is to live in the past. To live in the past is to be a dweller of a mental circle. To dwell in a mental circle is to feel as though you are closed off. To feel yourself closed off is to live with a sense of being incomplete. To live with a sense of being incomplete is the secret source of all wants. Round and round you go, but you are never going anywhere!
The following easy exercise will help you escape the circle of wants and to realize the truly new and unexpected life.
Each day, make it a point to spend some time in a natural setting. Never mind that you "don't have the time." If you want to find your way out of yourself, take the time. Go for a walk in a park, or just go outside where there's sunlight and trees, maybe some birds or squirrels. To receive the unexpected, learn to invite it.
Look at life around you. Don't sit there and think about it. See it. See the way a tree stands, the way a leaf falls, how sunlight streams across a road or field. See that nothing is static in life other than your own thoughts about your life. Just let go of your familiar self. Dare to drop your longings, your expectations about your life in favor of being willing to be alive... and welcome the unexpected. Come wide awake to yourself. Then quietly know that all around you -- in every living thing, and within you, in your life itself -- there dwells an ever-expanding universe telling its story to those who will stop and listen for it.
As you work at this simple exercise, what you want from life will begin to change. Why? Because you will come to see, increasingly, that what you want already is yours. There is nothing to chase, nothing to pursue. There is nothing that can be held onto because not only is it clear that all of life is ever-enlarging herself, but to hold onto anything limits what you can have. The birth of this understanding is the beginning of the way out. Take it.