Dancing with Disappointment

For many the practice of Lent is about deprivation. One gives up chocolate, TV, caffeine, etc. This practice holds a lot of wisdom when done contemplatively. Western culture is practiced in immediate gratification. If I need something, all I have to do is click a few buttons on my computer and poof, it’s at my front door in a short amount of time. The hidden gift in instant gratification is it is a doorway to the pain created when it doesn’t happen. That pain is the gift.

What happens when one can’t satisfy that want in a culture that says you can have what you want when you want it? Anger, overwhelm, confusion, etc. can pop up. It is happening so fast that one may not even know where the emotions are coming from. Western culture does not teach how to be with that feeling of disappointment, deprivation or lack. This is how the external world can begin taking the keys away from us and begin driving our bus. This is the root of some of the anger that is welling up.

As contemplatives and cultural heretics, living with disappointment is a huge practice. This is not about will-power. I’ve never had much luck with that! The way I practice disappointment, lack, etc. is to learn to dance with it. Stay in the uncomfortable feelings and learn from them. Just the act of saying “shall we dance?”, turns my attention inward and off the focus of external gratification. This is not easy. I am watching my 3-year-old granddaughter learning this. And her screams, tears and pleading are hard to resist. That is exactly what is happening inside of myself when disappointment pops up. I just want to stop the pain, stop the incessant pleading, make the noise calm down.  

Think about that the next time you are deprived. An inner three-year-old is making you so uncomfortable it is just easy to give in. My encouragement to you (and myself) is to say, “shall we dance?”. To sit with the strong emotions and thoughts with curiosity and gratitude because in them is a huge key to what I believe is lacking. If I can say, “I’m lonely, scared, overwhelmed, etc.,” and own it rather than pacify it I am able to live the life I’m in and move through it, make changes and give to others from an honest place.

Yes, there are practices to help one learn how to sit with this. If you are interested, please let me know. This is a big part of the journey of what we do at Pathways of Grace. We are a safe and spacious ball room for you to accept the invitation to dance with your life.

For now, just notice what happens when you instantly want to satisfy an urge. Practice being a heretic and use it as a dancing lesson.