The lesson which is one of my favorites to teach is about EXPECTATIONs. It is easily transferable to every age, every situation, every student. Emotions are high after class, and this topic allows our students the freedom to talk about their fears and about any concerns they have for their future. I can tell that the topic is relatable to them when they can describe an emotion they are feeling and talk about where in their body they are experiencing it when they discuss their future expectations.
What I mean by this is easily explained in an example I utilize no matter which age group or situation I am teaching. I talk about when a child is headed to an athletic game (I usually use the example of a soccer game). On the way to the game, some parents may say “I sure hope you play well today! Maybe you will score a goal!” We discuss this statement and talk about how that child would feel if he didn’t score a goal, or if she didn’t even play in the game that day. And we also discuss how he or she would feel if they scored three goals, or played the best game of their lives. We talk about where in their body they might feel disappointment, or excitement. How maybe their stomach turns knowing they didn’t live up to their parent’s expectations, or how they feel as though their heart will explode knowing they exceeded their own expectations. This simple example can then be transferred to high school students when the time comes for them to move on past high school: applying to college, attempting to get a job, moving back home after being released from their residential facility. Will they exceed their own expectations? Will they let someone else down? Will they let themselves down?
The toughest group to talk about this is the incarcerated. It is not because they do not understand this topic. On the contrary. They have spent their time being locked up only creating more and more expectations for themselves, and for the ones they love. They have an expectation of how it will feel to walk out of whichever facility they are in, or how their first meal will taste, or how they will be accepted back into their families. We talk about what it will feel like in their bodies if their first meal is burned, or it is raining on the day of their release, or if their family does not accept them back into the fold. By identifying in their bodies what it feels like to be let down by themselves or others, we empower them to move past that feeling and simply focus on one action: the action of change.
Our students are not able to control the world around them, or the people around them. If they could do that there would be no need for this program! However, they can change their view or perception of the people around them. Not worrying about an outcome in every situation, or not focusing as much attention on the outcome is our goal. Instead, worrying about the action stops the present moment from being enjoyed – not the past or future. One of my teachers said “Going into a conversation with an expectation is a manipulation.” If we are only focused on an outcome with an expected feeling or action as a goal, we speak to that person a certain way, molding our language to get what we want. If we are so attached to this outcome, we may miss the simple fact that our parents just want what they think is best for us – they aren’t married to the end result. Or our family may have been doing the best they could while we were away – not intentionally hurting us when we finally were able to rejoin them. Or our friends are doing what is best for them, not necessarily even thinking about our feelings.
Continually going into a situation wanting an expected outcome is exhausting. My body gets exhausted if I move from one interaction to another worried about what I think is going to happen at the end. And I am not going to lie – giving up expectations is not the easiest thing to do. It is a practice, and slowly but surely my interactions with those around me are not as calculated as they were years ago. There is a freedom of letting go, and our students are able to experience this (even for a couple moments during our class). What is so great, is that they GET IT right away. A student thanked me after class one day, and told me how the practice of letting go of expectations was something she realized had been directly affecting her sobriety.
“I expected this class to be hard. So I didn’t do all the poses. At the end I was not as tired or relaxed as I had been last week because [at that time] I didn’t know what to expect. I realized I do that in my own life. If I expect a day to be hard, or long, or emotional, I get high so I don’t have to deal. If I just let stuff happen, then maybe I won’t need to get high.”
Amber C., Inmate, Montgomery Correctional Institute
This is why we teach about expectations after we teach about gratitude and peer pressure. Our curriculum is set up in such a way that after a couple of weeks of doing yoga our students have the ability to see how they act on their yoga mat and that may be a representation of how they act in their own lives. They are able to start seeing who they want to be in their yoga practice and apply it to their own lives.
Help us create more change in those we serve.