We live every day expecting certain outcomes or events. We wake up and expect to be able to get out of bed, dress ourselves, go to work, etc. Under those mundane activities is the expectation of being treated a certain way: “I smile at the person I see and say hello, and they return an equivalent greeting”. It gets deeper: “I am loved the same way that I love” or my favorite: “I am cared for the same way that I care for others”. All of these beliefs are based on the fundamentals of “expectation”. We expect the world, people and events to be a certain way whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We expect to be healthy and when we are not, we expect to get better. We expect to die only when we are ready at a very old age. We expect our children to be geniuses in school and well-liked and successful. We expect our parents to be proud of our accomplishments, and on and on these go. What happens when our expectations don’t turn out? Unhappiness, anger, disappointment, sadness, etc. are all results of our expectations not turning out.
When I heard the news of Jackie passing away last week, I was surprised by my own reaction. It was very similar to when I learned of the passing of my father. In both cases, their deaths were expected and not a surprise. In fact, secretly, I was relieved that they both had passed. The relief however, was a mental one. I was glad that they did not have to suffer anymore. Then, why was I sad? No, it wasn’t that I missed them, at least not in the immediate days or weeks following their passing. It was the knowledge that neither of them would be a part of life (in this world) anymore. My sadness was based on the fact that my expectation that things will be this way for ever was no longer true. Even though, in my mind I knew that both would die sooner than later, somewhere in my heart, I was holding on to status quo. We are creatures made up of belief systems that go beyond our minds. We like predictability; we like to know that for every action there is an expected reaction. But when that reaction isn’t quite what we had expected, we are disappointed.
Recently, I attended a gathering that I was very excited about, because I expected to learn new things and make some new and meaningful connections. It ended up being quite boring and I didn’t make the connections I had hoped for. In fact, I was getting angry at having to spend my time in this manner. In the midst of my experience I realized that my anger was just due to my expectation of it being a certain way and it not being that way. So I stopped myself and took a few deep breaths. I decided to stay and allow it to unfold. It was very hard, as I am not a patient person and am rather selfish with my time. However, I decided to allow the occasion to teach me whatever “it” wanted. I know this sounds crazy, there is no “it” to be wanting anything. Bear with me, what I mean is that I took myself out of the picture. This act, opened me up to receive whatever showed up without my agenda. And I found myself interested and engaged. No, it wasn’t what I had hoped for, but by not hoping (at least half way through the day) I allowed myself to receive the moment as it showed up. So many times, we insist on getting what we want that we forget that maybe if we loosened up a bit, we might get something even better!
In the Eastern traditions, they call it detachment. Detach in order to experience peace. Our expectations keep us attached. What we don’t realize is how many we have. It is part of our consciousness. It is why we are unhappy and confused. Ok, so now that we know why we can be unhappy, how do we detach, how do we stop expecting? That’s the tricky part. It all starts with awareness. Once you are aware of your expectations as you go through your day, you can release them. What’s amazing in this process is that when you notice that you are expecting, you already are in a place of choice. If you choose not to expect, just to experience, your state of expansion and bliss begins. Once you stop expecting, you are no longer in prison. You are free from mass consciousness and now you can choose who/how to be. In that moment, there is complete peace and contentment. Life feels bigger than you and you feel a part of it all. So, with the holidays coming up, it might be a good opportunity to practice awareness of when our expectations creep up on us and the choice to release them. Happy Thanksgiving!