Any good pastry chef will tell you there are recipes when a cup of sugar is appropriate, recipes where a teaspoon of sugar is called for and other times when a sprinkle of sugar is all you need. In most cases in baking, it would be detrimental to the recipe to interchange a teaspoon for a cup or a sprinkle. Our taste buds already know this but when it comes to expectations we often get this wrong.

I was teaching a class one Saturday afternoon and I had a variety of students in my class. I’m going to leave the topic of the class out of the mix because this scenario could apply to any teacher, mentor or coach discussing any topic on any given day. Within my class I had some students who were very familiar with the content I was teaching, others who had never heard any of these concepts, and many folks somewhere in the middle. There were some people in the class hanging on my every word having ah-ha moment after ah-ha moment. There were others who grabbed a new perspective or a new concept but they were not quite having the earth-shattering experience as their chest-clenching neighbor. Amidst these two extremes there were many people who were nodding, connecting and relating to new ideas. In other words, there were people in my class getting a cup of sugar, others getting a teaspoon while the rest were getting a sprinkle. The point I’d like to make is each and every student in my class was getting exactly what his or her recipe called for.

A cup of sugar is wonderful unless it’s not.

If we’re making cookies, a cup of sugar makes sense – if we’re making a cup of tea, a cup of sugar sounds ridiculous. But, we live in a world where we expect every lecture, every lesson, every meditation, every experience, every moment to be a cup-of-sugar-moment. We love the huge ah-has, we love the major downloads, we love the holy-cow experiences, we love big, mind-blowing ideas! While these cup-of-sugar moments are wonderful and often times change the course of our lives, they can’t fill up every moment because it would simply be too much – we need the teaspoon and sprinkle moments as well. Cup-of-sugar moments can rock us to our core and provide channel changing realizations but the teaspoon-of-sugar moments provide clarity, tweaks and support while the sugar sprinkles provide confirmation. They are all enjoyable in their own way, they are all necessary and they all have their place in our lives.

My husband and I went to a lecture about 12 years ago that was a cup-of-sugar moment for both of us. Our note-taking pencils were on fire and we both had life-changing realizations that made us re-evaluate the way we did just about everything. We took close friends to the same lecture a couple of years later and watched them have their cup-of-sugar moment while we enjoyed our sugar sprinkles. No part of us said, “we already know this so it’s a waste of time/money,” or “I’m past this.” Inevitably we both heard things that were said in a slightly different way that helped us to understand the concept a little better while getting a nice refresher. We also enjoyed the conversation and sharing our experience of the material with our friends on the car ride home.

On the flip side, some of us won’t be the ones watching a lecture, we’ll be the ones giving the lecture, be it a small classroom, boardroom or a huge auditorium. We have to remind ourselves that our audience is going to be filled with people whose recipes are all calling for something different. We can’t expect to have everyone jumping up and down while screaming with delight – it wouldn’t be appropriate. This is a really important thing to remind ourselves so we don’t get discouraged with the attendees or students who are sitting quietly in their seats. It’s OK – they’re getting a sprinkle….a sprinkle is great. We don’t need to change everyone’s channel right now.

If we can really take a moment to understand this concept – a sprinkle, a teaspoon or a cup – it will help us with our expectations immensely! On one side of the sugar cube it will help us appreciate every single moment where we’re the student and not look at anything as being beneath us or a waste of time, money or energy. We’ll stop chasing that one perfect meditation we had last year and just enjoy the sugar sprinkle one we’re having now.  I always say, even if I learn one new small thing or experience a small moment of quiet enjoyment,  it was worth my attention. On the flip side it will help us appreciate that every teaching moment will be unique and exactly what the students need, even if the ego doesn’t get the fireworks-reaction it longs for. It will remind us that everyone is in a different place and that’s good.  It’s ok that our information is being received differently – it quite frankly should be.

Every moment in life is a moment to learn, enjoy, reflect, tweak, reiterate, reinforce, or absolutely change everything – just how much we take away from each situation changes from person to person or moment to moment. We just need to trust that the recipe already knows what is called for and appreciate.

-Dawn Culp. © Copyright, 2017, The Zen Room