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Expectation & Emotion

by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff


If you could get rid
Of yourself just once,
The secret of secrets
Would open to you.
The face of the unknown, 
Hidden beyond the universe
Would appear on the
Mirror of your perception.
-Rumi

Each spiritual traveler is born into a world of expectation. Daily, behavior and societal standards are presented by family, friends, co-workers, country, religion and self.

Overtime these expectations form our operating system and world view. We want to go and do based upon what we have been taught and what we desire for self and others; expectations set standards for behavior that have attached to them a whole series of emotions. For example, joy at accomplishing our goal or sadness if we fail. 

This set of personal expectations, in time, can entrap and bind- yet serves an essential function for society as a whole; and is often the basis for daily behavior. 

For the spiritual traveler, these are the chains that must be temporarily broken. Cognitively and emotionally they are a door that blocks inner awareness. Attached to expectations are emotions that enrich and help make us human.  However in a spiritual quest, they fill our consciousness and must be stilled temporarily so the Higher Impulse can be perceived. In this context, emotions and expectations are ‘a noise’ in our consciousness: blocking other things from happening.

Many times, spiritual travelers are unaware, because these expectations are hidden, that it is precisely these sub-conscious thoughts, along with their emotional attachments, that are blocking spiritual progress. In a spiritual quest, typical expectation sets run something like this.
· I have been meditating for five years and surely something should have happened by now. Or I cannot meditate for more than 2 minutes and surely this inability must be holding me back.
· Everyone knows, “we have been given enough for the journey;’ therefore I can pick and choose what I like from different paths.  This technique has worked for me in so many other areas of life (i.e., picking a vocation, car and job).
· When performing spiritual exercises, praying, or doing good works we all have an expectation about how we will be rewarded; for example this activity will make me a good person, I will gain in good works and I feel good helping others. When the spiritual traveler has these often hidden feelings; these feelings become their reward and they do not travel further. This mind set is a form of ‘spiritual greed’ and must be disarmed by a neutral mental posture.
· When I reach a high level of spirituality, my life will be perfect and complete.  Spiritual knowledge is one aspect of a healthy life; spiritual awareness serves as a catalyst to enable other things to happen. 
· I love to meditate and pray; it makes me feel so peaceful and I am One with everything. Or I feel so good when I work at the soup kitchen, helping the homeless. Think about the emotional attachment.

In order to maximize spiritual potential, the traveler must learn to recognize when their expectation set is operating. Also the traveler must learn to differentiate between an emotional and a spiritual experience. While expectations and emotions are an important part of healthy living, for many, because they have not been disarmed- both become an obstacle to spiritual learning and experience.

You are a potential
Waiting to bud.

You are the door;
This blocks your way.
Pick-up the key.
Open the lock.

The key is inside of you.
* *

Why do travelers
Have so much trouble accepting
We came into this world
To express our higher selves
And grow closer to God?

While our time in this world
Serves a multitude of purposes,
In some respect, it will have been wasted
Unless we come to accept this unifying principle.
________

Check-out my two books: Sufism for Western Seekers: Path of the Spiritual Traveler in Everyday Life and The Ferryman’s Dream.  Both books are also in Kindle format and available on Amazon.com or local bookstore. 

If you are interested in learning more about universal mysticism and Sufism, contact: drbitkoff@yahoo.com.

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