Expectations = Suffering

I’ve talked here about expectations. Also about being present, in the moment. Essentially, our mind has a tendency to be attached to certain results. We desire and crave certain things. Desiring is natural, it is our motivator to do. There is no being without doing. But desire deteriorates into craving when our expectations are not met. Craving leads to suffering.

Curiously, many people in our world consider suffering normal. When I say suffering, they might think starving children in Ethiopia. But the majority live lives of quiet desperation. Loosing themselves in mind numbing TV, seeking small pleasures in overeating, and otherwise doing their best to avoid pain. We live in a place of abundance, yet waste our moments in avoiding it. Such is the paradox of illusion. Pretending not to pretend, we unintentionally loose our birthright of happiness.

horesey wants
Creative Commons photo by Caruba

I was reminded of the lesson of expectation this week at work. I had a project with an easy deadline. Then the deadline was moved up, the newer technology choice didn’t work, and suddenly the deadline arrives with nothing ready. I was irritated by how it worked out and that I was not better prepared. But it only takes a moment to see that part of the issue was expectations. An idea of an ‘easy’ deadline. If I had not been invested in that idea, it would have lead to better prep and fewer consequences. In any case, what does the irritation serve but to distract me from what needs to get done? I could invest in the irritation and start complaining and making excuses. Or I can see it for what it is and step past it into solutions.

Expectations arise because the mind likes to make stories about ‘how it is’. These are never about now, only future and past. When we don’t know our true natures, the mind steps up, feeling it needs to be in charge. But the mind is not grounded in reality so does not feel secure. It feels it must make a story to explain things and deal with the boogey man. Make the world less scary. Or justify why we feel scared. Oftentimes, that story is based on pretty shaky conclusions about others and the world. It latches on to certain events that appear to confirm its position, like the thing with the boss on a bad day. Then, add in the ego’s need to make things wrong so it can feel better in being right. In essence, we are building a dream to be happy, only to find the world is inexplicably not sharing our illusion. We are putting our happy eggs in a basket with no bottom.

If you don’t think this affects you, I can simply ask – are you always happy? Do you consider the world a warm and friendly place? Are you awake to your true nature? If you answer no to these questions, then I can guarantee you are under the sway of expectations based on an illusion. It is the simple nature of being an individual human. Not knowing who you are, a story is needed to explain it. I story we’ve been writing for decades.

When we don’t see this process or we forget it, the mind then goes conclusion jumping. You may have met someone who is a compulsive liar. Typically this develops as a protective mechanism. The problem with the lies is that they have to then be sustained, and further lies are built on top of previous lies. Soon it is a house of cards. Trouble is, thats reality for a lot more people than realize it. They may be unintentional lies, but they are stories nonetheless.

Because we then see the world a certain way, through the filter of our story, we develop expectations about how it will respond. And because we see the world incorrectly, those expectations lead directly to suffering. Our wishes appear dashed, we remain frustrated, life appears harsh. All of this because we had expectations of how its “supposed to” be. This is in direct contrast to ideas like Eckhart Tolle’s when he speaks about being with what is. Instead, we’ve been practicing being with what isn’t.

Being with what is allows us to see through the stories we tell. It also allows us to begin to see how it actually is. And how it is is the secret to peace and happiness, beyond expectation.

It really is very simple. But its not easy to learn, simply because our mind is so habituated to listen to the stories. Coincidentally (there are none), while I was drafting this my friend Tom Stine wrote a post on how Fear is Future. Fear arises in the expectation of a negative future outcome. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Our expectations are rooted in future concepts that are illusions.

Tom goes on to suggest techniques for moving past fear. Those same techniques can be used to move past any emotional barrier we are experiencing. Any sense of resistance. Fear however has deep roots and is the source of many other emotions we may judge as “negative”. When we look closely inside anger and sadness, we will find fear. Inside fear is a hurt we are still holding. Thus we have an expectation of the hurt recurring. We are planning a future of suffering.

As we loose the expectations of the future and regret of the past, we may feel a sense of loss of who we are. But what we’re loosing is the stories we have thought to be ‘us’. That is how closely we may be invested in our pain. What we’re really loosing is the stories that mask who we are and cover the happiness we all carry within, always. Seeing through the dream is seeing through suffering, into the light of peace.

Davidya

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4 Responses to Expectations = Suffering

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