Practicing Yoga in Your Mind

Practicing Yoga in Your Mind

by Don Hall

I’ve never tried yoga. I’m not the most coordinated person I’ve ever met nor am I physically flexible. Both indicators that I could probably benefit from yoga but I tend to pigeonhole myself a bit when it comes to physical activity. Prior to the Massive Weight Loss of 2008, I frequently denigrated anyone who frequented a gym as knuckleheads with delusions of vanity. Then I started to workout and the gym became my place of zen.

What I seem to be fairly adept at, however, is the yoga of my mind.

Sitting on a couch with a long-time friend of Dana’s who happens to live in Las Vegas, sipping beer and telling stories, her friend (a recent recipient of chemo-therapy) sits up and declares “If there is one lesson I’ve learned through all of this,” indicating her body and wig, “is to live without expectations.”

I’ve heard that refrain more than a few times. I have, in fact, said the same thing. Live without expectations and you’ll never be disappointed. Eschew expectations and you’ll live with no regrets.

I’m no longer so sure of this mantra.

If there is any one lesson I find to be a genuine truth is that, in order to live well, one should cease to categorize life in either/or terms. The easy concept of reducing choices to Good vs Bad, Right vs Wrong, One Road or the Other, tends to cause more pointless friction than almost anything I see. 

Perhaps it isn’t “Live without expectations” but rather “Live with flexible expectations.”

Based upon everything I knew and all evidence to support it, I expected that I would have job offers lining up in Las Vegas. It’s an events kind of town and I’m fucking excellent at that sort of work. Those expectations were completely off. Disappointed with this new reality, I found myself forced to readjust those expectations. Instead of wallowing in my sense of unfairness in the world and throw my hands up to say “Fuck! Why am I not getting exactly what I expected and deserve?!” I had to practice my Dog Facing Ass pose mentally, flex those emotional joints, and adapt to the situation.

Expectations are essentially a hope for what may come. Certainly, negative expectations are a form of protection and preparedness for the tough realities ahead and are a solid basis to moving forward elegantly but to live with nothing more than the expectations of a poor set of outcomes is to toss hope aside.

I expect that most people will behave as humans. Often self-involved, self-serving, and clawing their way over the bodies of those presenting obstacles. I’m thus unsurprised when they behave this way. I hope that people will transcend these selfish motives once in a while and behave with the better angels of their nature and because I have that hope, that flexible expectation of people, I’m thrilled when I see it happen.

I believe that by stretching the mental muscles and tendons of expectation, our lives will be more fulfilling. Disappointment is simply one portion of the road and denying oneself of that lessens the appreciation and gratitude that comes when the expectations are met and exceeded. I’m reminded of an analogy I love: you can’t truly enjoy a fantastic corned beef sandwich until you had a few shitty ones.

I genuinely appreciate my third marriage in part due to the two that ended. I can value the crummy mother-in-law apartment she and I temporarily reside in right now because I can remember moving to Chicago and living in my car. I’m thrilled with the new casino job because I spent three weeks in Vegas with exactly $1.42 in my bank account.

I expect the very best and am also aware that I deserve nothing. The notion that life is owed to me, that fairness is deserved, that hard work is rewarded evenly across humans is foolish. I have lived just long enough to understand that my expectations may often be unrealistic and unrealized but without them, I’d be stuck in a rut of undeveloped potential.

So, live with expectations. Make them high and seemingly unreachable. Balance that with the flexibility to change them, readjust and continue forward. Practice the yoga of the mind.

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