During a recent training day, I took part in an exercise in being curious and non-judgemental. Working in pairs we were given a pouch containing two unknown objects. We were then instructed to choose one while it was still in the pouch, describe it and say how we felt about it before seeing what it was.
My colleague went first. She spent some time describing something that felt very natural. As she spoke I was getting excited about my turn, looking forward to discovering what mine might be. I saw myself enjoying the tactile experience and challenging myself to identify it from touch alone. When she took hers out of the pouch, it was a beautiful dried poppy seed head, that rattled gently when shook. My expectations rose imagining what might be in store for me.
Mindfulness is Being with Things as they are
However, when I put my hand in the bag I immediately felt deflated and disappointed. I could see why my colleague had chosen the poppy. Mine was boring. It was cold and hard and I knew immediately it was a polished stone. I felt denied the opportunity to be curious and enjoy the tactile sensations of exploring an object with my hands. Irritated and bored by it I kept picking it up and repeatedly dropping it in the pouch.
Remembering something I’d learned in mindfulness, I realised I’d wanted the stone to be something it wasn’t…. the poppy. Instead of being curious and non-judgemental, I had expectations about what would be in the pouch and how I’d my experience it. So I’d been disappointed and annoyed when these weren’t met.
Once I recognized this, I accepted the pebble as it was. With this shift in thinking came an interest in the pebble as I allowed myself to be open to whatever it had to offer. I now noticed how it fit in the palm of my hand; its temperature, smoothness, size and irregularity of shape. When I took the pebble out of the pouch it was copper coloured with gold flecks. I knew I’d have loved it instantly if I’d seen it.
Dealing with Disappointment
I’d thought myself a more open-minded and curious person. Yet I’d experienced deep disappointment when the pebble in the pouch didn’t live up to the expectations I’d imagined. It wasn’t the pebble’s fault – it was what it was. The fact that I’d have loved it on sight, illustrates how my opinion of it was coloured by comparison and expectations.
I hope my experience with the pebble and the poppy will serve to remind you when you stop wanting situations and people to be something else, you can accept them for what they are. If you’d like to see changes, then it’s best to start with yourself. The alternative can lead to disappointment, and the loss of enjoyment in a moment, day or person.