experience it

by

Think about your last disappointment. Was it a movie you saw? A book you read? A date you went on? Or maybe it was just this past New Year’s Eve? Now that you’ve brought it to mind, ask yourself: “Why was I disappointed with the experience?” Chances are we’ll say something like: “The movie wasn’t as good as the previews made it out to be,” or, “The girl was attractive but had no personality,” or, “I didn’t find someone to kiss when midnight struck.” All valid reasons for disappointment. All understandable. And all our own fault.

accepting the blame for disappointment

Disappointment has one strong inherent implication, and that is that we expected something out of the experience based on our subjective view of past experiences and stories. We expected it to be good or bad, exciting or nerve-wracking, awkward or blissful. Now imagine a life of no disappointment.

Having no expectations is a powerful place to be. It allows us to enter every situation with a blank slate, with Locke’s tabula rasa. Why is this powerful? Because we go into everything with an open mind, not allowing stress to invade our mind or tensing our shoulders. We’re always pleasantly surprised, being closer to understanding that there is no good, there is no bad, there just is what is.

Accepting blame for something like this also teaches us another invaluable lesson. And that is humility. According to nearly every religious and philosophical doctrine, pride, or the sense of self, is the basis for all wrong, or all sin. That’s because it makes us act out of selfishness and greed, in direct disregard to others in order to advance ourselves. Imagine humbling ourselves by accepting the blame of what we deemed a negative situation. Imagine the power, the self-control, that brings.

don’t judge

We create our own reality. If a situation was bad, it’s because we made it bad. A car accident isn’t a bad thing. It’s an opportunity. For what? That’s up to us to figure out.

So when the next “negative” situation arises, we should take a step back and examine:

  • Why is this a bad thing?
  • What was my immediate reaction?
  • Why did I react that way?
  • Am I alive?

Then look closely at our answers (although the last one shouldn’t require too much deep thought). If we still have trouble grasping the concept, it can be helpful to turn to this famous Zen story for help:

Once there was an old farmer whose horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well thins had turned out.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The neighbors viewed the events transpiring at the farmer’s home with judgment. Things were either good or bad, and their emotions were akin to a roller coaster in response. That’s exhausting and stress-inducing, which means it’s harmful to our health (literally) and takes years off our life. The farmer, however, kept an open mind, devoid of judgment, devoid of expectations. He was relaxed and in the flow, never allowing a circumstance to determine his emotional or mental state.

This philosophy is a mental attitude we adopt through consistent application, which will include its fair share of failure as well as success.

If you haven’t already, give it a shot – you may be pleasantly surprised.

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4 Responses to “experience it”

  1. aprilingle Says:

    Without expectations, don’t we lack emotions at all? How could the farmer truly embrace this life without reacting to the situation.

    This is why I planned for rain on my wedding day…low expectations not only helped me prepare better for any situation, but fully appreciate the sunny skies overhead.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      The farmer has more fully and truly embraced his life than those of us who react to things by assigning subjective value and saying they’re good or they’re bad. His is a life of action, not automated reaction. I sometimes find it difficult to explain b/c I have not yet reached that level (although I hope to one day), but, according to eastern philosophical doctrines like Buddhism and Taoism, someone like that has found the power to experience unreasonable happiness (or contentment) at all times.

      I highly recommend checking out some books on Zen Buddhism or Taoism – they could elaborate upon the concept much better than my 600-word blog posts :). And they might lend some insight into your own life and how you live your daily life.

  2. Ken Says:

    I have to say I think this is one of the best, most prophetic, article you have written. Or, maybe I just relate to it better. Either way, I like the lesson learned. If only I can remember to practice what this says. Oh, the daily challenges of life. Nice work.

  3. HUGGY BEAR Says:

    Okay aprilingle I am going to try and rationalize Jeff’s thoughts on your wedding day. What he is saying is that he thinks you should take a look at rain on that day not in a negative way. In fact, rain is an opportunity for you instead. Once you have no expectations one way or another you are able to live in the current moment, and not in the current moment’s expectations. You have embraced your surroundings. If you disagree Jeffrey you may do so, but it is going to be tough seeing how I have already achieved self-actualization.

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