Set Lower Expectations for Your Towels and Carrots

Towels (Photo by Michael Coghlan available on Flickr)

As part of the Hotel Council of San Francisco’s first “Stay Green Forum,” I got to tour the back rooms, roofs, and basements of some of San Francisco’s largest hotels. It was wonderful to see the Clift Hotel’s bee colony and the Hotel Nikko’s micro turbines. But as the Hilton’s general manager took us down to their “water saving” laundry room, I was a little dismayed to see rows and rows of energy-slurping ironing machines for rooms’ towels and sheets.

I can’t blame the Hilton for wasting energy on such a stupid pursuit. I have to blame myself, and everyone else, who expects to walk into a hotel room and find ironed sheets and towels. We’re the same people who expect our carrots to be perfectly straight, to be able to avoid mud completely when it rains, and to have little packets of cream we can easily pour into our coffee.

In Buddhism, expectations are a product of the “wanting mind.” Through meditation and mindfulness, Buddhists are supposed to eliminate these desires and develop an awareness and appreciation for reality. Lower expectations are a secret to happiness.

But I think the challenge is even harder when it comes to the unnecessary comforts we’ve become accustomed to getting. I don’t even have the mindfulness to desire ironed sheets and towels in hotels or perfectly straight carrots. How can I lower expectations when I don’t realize what I’m expecting? These expectations are almost part of my reality.

I may have been dismayed to see the rows and rows of big ironing machines humming away deep in the basement of the Hilton Union Square. But I’m glad for the reminder that I need to be more mindful to the world around me. A world where we can appreciate an imperfect carrot and a tramp through the mud is a much healthier and happier place.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .