Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Hazards of Expectations

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, neither are you here to live up to mine, I don’t owe no one no obligation, no one owe me none so everything is fine. I said I am that I am”
-Peter Tosh

Expectations… They truly are a silent killer. A stealth assassin that creeps in to so many moments in our lives and destroys our ability to truly grasp the volume of information that is being offered to us on a daily basis. Whether we believe it or not, we have expectations for many situations in our lives. When these expectations are not met, we may often feel that we have been cheated on some level and don’t receive the full experience of many of the situations that we enter into - or the people that we come into contact with. If you are truly open, then everyone has something to teach you.
Just as I did in my previous post, I will tell you that this is yet another area in which I do not have mastery, and we will all make some mistakes from time to time. I find that the more tired or frustrated I am, the more closed-minded I can be. It seems as if this may be true for a lot of people. (This is also one of the many reasons that I always request my students get plenty of rest at night!)
I would like to share a short story. Some of you may have heard this if you have ever taken a class with me, but is very applicable to this subject.
Many years ago when I was teaching with Tracker school down in Florida I got the opportunity to hunt for wild pig. I jumped at the chance because I think they are by far my favorite animals to hunt and for several reasons: They are keen, hard to stalk, and they can be dangerous. All of these considerations lead to an amazing hunt that requires proficiency in several different skill sets in order to be successful.
The hunt was going to take place on a leased property in south central Florida. The property was in amongst thousands of acres of cattle pastures and tomato farms and was full of amazing wildlife. I woke up late on the day of the hunt, which already started me off on a bad note. In addition, when I finally made it to the property, I got myself lost which only added to my frustration. I was running about 4 hours behind schedule when I ultimately found the hunting spot.
I met the friends and two guides that I was going to be hunting with out on the road, and followed them back to their cabin. As we rounded a bend to the cabin, the first thing that caught my eye was a burnt pile of trash and plastic, as well as an abundance of litter strewn about the property. As the property we were using for our hunt was rather large, I was to be led by the one of the guides. I immediately began to question my plans for the day, feeling as if these two men obviously did not have as much respect for the earth and nature as I had hoped. I was also pretty certain that we had contrasting hunting ethics. When we began to speak I took notice of the lack of reverence and that these two men held for the act of hunting, also in stark contrast to my own feelings. “What could they possibly show me?”, I wondered. I began to get more frustrated with the whole situation and decided that I was going to go out and hunt by myself. I was preparing to set off when I stopped myself and thought that this was not the way I need to be approaching the situation, remembering that everyone and everything has something to teach me. I swallowed my pride and set off on the hunt with “Earl” (name changed).
It strikes me as humorous as to the method in which the Creator shows a person how wrong he/she can be. Earl had been hunting this property for the better part of 20 years and, as it turned out, had an impressive understanding of the interaction between the south Florida wildlife. Not only that, but he was also an amazing tracker! It was turning out to be a great hunt after all.
Considering sunset was still a few hours away, we decided that it would be best to stop and wait in one particular spot for a bit. At that time the animals would be on the move. As we waited we talked some more, shared hunting stories and had a few laughs. The place we were sitting was on the edge of a patch of oak and palm that was about a half acre in size, looking out over many hundreds of acres with grazing cattle. I kept looking out across this vast space in wide-angle vision, hoping to catch the movement of a wild boar. About an hour into our sit, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye in a thicket that was about a hundred yards across from where we were sitting. Slowly turning my head, and simultaneously hushing my hunting partner, I turned my gaze to the source of the movement and was absolutely awestruck. Out of the thicket stepped a beautiful female mountain lion!!! Up until that point in my life I had always yearned to see one of these amazing animals. I had spent countless hours in areas of the US where there are huge populations of these amazing beings, searching for them, but finding only tracks and signs of them. Yet here in Florida, where the estimated population of panthers is no more that 80 to the entire state, I was blessed enough to see one!!
She stepped out of the thicket, stopped, listened, and smelled the air. Luckily the wind was in our favor and she did sense our presence. We then watched in amazement as she slowly walked, for several hundred yards across the open field in front of us and vanished like a ghost into another thicket. I always tell people that the best hunts I have ever had do not involve taking the life of an animal - and I cannot think of a more shining example. That experience is one that I will never forget and, in fact, still lives on completely vividly in my minds eye.
So I ask you this.: What would have happened had I not swallowed my pride and set out on that hunt by myself? I’m sure I still would have had a good time, for any time spent in the cathedrals of nature is amazing. Yet, would I have had such an amazing experience? Would I have learned so much? As I said in my last post, often times we get so wrapped up in the end result that we fail to notice the wonder that goes on around us every second of every day. It’s one of the reasons why people can be so unhappy with their lives. Their expectations of where and who they should be both in the present and future are not met, and that disappoints them. Often times these expectations are not even their own, but instead placed upon them by family, class, and society. People are so busy trying to live up to others expectations that they rarely find themselves. Thankfully some of us are able to break free and realize that our lives belong to us as individuals, and everyone’s vision is unique to him/herself. It reminds me of yet another quote from a musician.
“We the American working population hate the fact that eight hours a day is wasted on chasing the dreams of someone that isn’t us.”
-Aesop Rock
I can’t exactly give you a grand summation to all of this, but I will offer some advice: Approach life with an empty cup. Open yourselves to the lessons of the universe; they are being spoken at all times. Sometimes with words, other times more subtly. We all have something to learn from everybody and everything out there. I will say this with a hint of guilt. DON’T LET YOUR EGO RULE THE DAY!!! Don’t regret things you have done in the past, especially if you have learned from it. We all have the power to change at any time,. We have the power to do whatever we want with our lives and can reverse course at a moments notice. I am not saying that any of this is easy. On the contrary, anything that revolutionary is worth working hard for because the rewards outweigh the struggle. Truth be told, most of the truly amazing folks I know have had to endure a fair amount of pain and struggle in their lives. Its not that pain and struggle that defines them, but how they channeled it, how it forged them into the people they are today.
Again I will tell you that these are things I definitely still struggle with. At least I can say that I am beginning to have conscious awareness of them and am trying to overcome them. We are always growing and evolving. Make the choice to approach every second with that empty cup.

Next week I will fill you all in on some projects I am working on as of late. Thanks for reading!