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By James Westly
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beings are wondrous creatures. We think, we dream, we speculate about the nature
of the universe, we hope, we pray. We have definite ideas about our lives. Definite
ideas, or expectations, that frequently have been generated by the influences
of our upbringing. For example, what American female child raised in the Fifties
or Sixties hasn't been exposed to the fairy tales of Cinderella, or Snow White.
You know! The poor, ordinary girl who is eventually swept off her feet by the
handsome prince with whom she lives "happily ever after."
How many women are looking for, or hoping to meet prince charming, and are disappointed when the man they eventually marry falls short of that mark, that expectation? How many of us have set up standards and goals for the various stages of our lives? Expecting that, when we arrive at such-and-such an age that we will be, do or have some specified something. Then what do we experience, what do we feel, when the designated age arrives and our life circumstances do not meet the expectation? And then, how often do we apply the same process of thought to our spiritual life, visioning that we will be, do or have some particular thing, situation or event as a result of seeking our spiritual path, or waking-up, or finding our purpose, or becoming conscious?
Or maybe we expect that our awakening will contain certain experiences, or bestow upon us certain powers? Then how do we feel when our expectations are not met in the precise way we intended/expected, and are those feelings in alignment with our spiritual practice? Expectation is a very human process. It is with us every moment of every day. We have a mental picture of how most of our moments in most of our days are going to be. Is it any wonder that we come to consider life to be a stifling affair. Little space is left for life's Mystery, for surprise, or spontaneity, and when it shows up anyway, we push it away.
If life is a mystery, and the nature of our personal spirituality an unknown, we cannot possibly have a direct experience of it while it is shrouded in expectation. It follows from this that an aspect of our spiritual practice, at some point in our development, has to be an intentional confrontation with our tendency to form expectations about everything. The first step is developing awareness of the process, and releasing the tendency to place value on it. The stability we crave must come from our inner being, not external circumstances. The only thing certain about external reality, is the flow of change, which produces instability, and can tend to evoke anxiety. How we then deal with that anxiety determines what we experience as personal reality.
If we embrace change as a constant, and see it as an opportunity to change ourselves and continuously adapt to new challenges, we will find the opportunity to consciously walk our path. To do that we need to develop new inner world choices and resources. We can teach ourselves, for instance, to expect the unexpected, and be delighted by the surprises it creates in our life. We can do that by becoming an Observer of our thoughts. Many of the inner processes we experience that hold back spiritual connection operate out of our awareness. By bringing them into conscious awareness, we begin to create choice in our inner world where none before existed. So, becoming a student of our own inner process is an essential first step.
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