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SURPRISE! You’ve got…mail, the job offer, cancer
SURPRISE! You are…pregnant, lost, fired
SURPRISE! It’s…a boy, a girl, twins?!
SURPRISE! Your flight has been…delayed, cancelled, rerouted
SURPRISE! There is a…party, call, letter for you
SURPRISE! It’s an…announcement, emergency, earthquake
SURPRISE! We have a…verdict, diagnosis, outcome you were not expecting…

Key words, not expecting. Whatever “it” is in the context of SURPRISE, you were not expecting it. Surprise, welcome to life…where things are often closer than they appear…or, they don’t appear at all! We learn again and again to soften our expectations and trust our outcomes to be perfect for, maybe not what we want, but what we need. The gift may not be obvious at first glance. It often is not. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been surprised, right?

Sometimes, in the middle of battles not of his choosing, he is taken by surprise, but there is no point in running away. Those battles will merely follow him.” Paulo Coelho

Even modern-day battles, such as flight delays…

You will probably not make your connection so we’ll put you on the next flight to Las Vegas, which leaves Los Angeles five hours later.” ~American Airlines rep at Narita (Tokyo)

Scratch the record…what? After my 11 hour and 24 minute flight from Tokyo, I will need to wait an additional FIVE hours before hopping over to Vegas? Perhaps, I should rent a car… Hang on, Sarah, exhale. Time to practice, I reasoned to myself. Stop trying to control things you can’t (such as flights to LAX…) while hanging your happiness in the balance. Just wait and listen…for the announcement and the next set of instructions.

SURPRISE is a brief mental and physiological state…a startle response experienced as the result of an unexpected event. Detected in the face with raised eyebrows, eyes opening wide, a dropped jaw, and experienced in the heart with the heart rate quickening and emotions rising.

SURPRISE is an opportunity to self-soothe when we notice it elicits our fight-or-flight response, a.k.a. stress. What helps you counteract stress? Is it yoga and meditation, or dancing and good go-to sessions with a close friend? Decompress in whichever ways make sense and work for you…and you have access to in your particular “battlefield”.

SURPRISE reminds us to lighten up. The world isn’t out to get us, it is out to teach us. Soften your rigid expectations of how things should work out…and just let them work out.

SURPRISE may tempt us to shy away from life, to withdraw from pain, and to recluse into a more limited sense of self and the frontier of possibilities. But, this isn’t the answer or the gift…

No one person can anticipate all of life. In fact, overpreparation is yet another way to wall ourselves in from life. Rather, we can only prepare for how we might respond to the gift of surprise that often moves in on us faster than our reflex to resist.” ~Mark Nepo

SURPRISE reminds us…hey, you’re alive, you survived that painful awful thing…or maybe you’re going through it right now. But, lo and behold, there’s something…many things…so many things to be grateful for in this moment. Shift your awareness and acknowledge something in gratitude right now. Gratitude breaks the downward spiral of anxiety and negativity.

SURPRISE calls out ignorance because, in surprise, we reveal a gap…a gap between our assumptions and our expectations, and a gap between our expectations and our reality. We assume worldly event A means outcome B, but then we witness outcome C. In the acknowledgement of our ignorance, we learn our predictive models may need some fine-tuning. This allows us to avoid or anticipate the next crash…and practice soft landings.

11428058_10205835998932147_8983330004363924652_nMy daughter, in learning to walk, has perfected the art of soft landings. In her case, it involves bending her knees…and clapping. FYI – clapping helps with everything…

…any moment of interest or pain or adversity can surprise us into the larger totality of life, breaking our current limits and allowing us the chance to redefine ourselves in regard to the larger sense that is upon us.” ~Mark Nepo

Do you want to explore SURPRISE further? Click here for quotes, mantras and our willPower dedicated weekly exercise.

Sarah Ingmanson

Sarah Ingmanson

Sarah is a studio owner, fitness instructor and competitor. She is a former investment banker and equity research analyst with her MBA from the Wharton School and her MA in International Affairs from the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania. Sarah is fluent in Japanese and consults with Japanese companies on corporate governance, finance, and investor relations. Sarah's interest in Japan stemmed from her first tour with Disney On Ice as a professional figure skater. For more info on Sarah and her studio, visit www.starslocker.com.