What would life be like if you released all expectations of how things should be, taking your day minute-by-minute, focused always on the present; letting events unfold as they will?
Imagine a day where you didn’t expect anything from anyone or anything.
I don’t mean – as Frank Sinatra sang, “Roll myself up in a big ball and die;” rather totally, unequivocally releasing all pre-suppositions and judgment – from the minute to the significant. You wouldn’t fret about the weather. No longer would anger be the default reaction when tailgated on the freeway. The cost of groceries or the number of your bills wouldn’t sway you. You would be a student of the news; not an angry viewer. If someone didn’t treat you in a manner you considered “fair,” you’d move on, not held in a prison of perturbation.
Nothing would get under your skin; you’d be in a sublime, ever-calm, state of peace and acceptance.
Gautama Buddha lived 2500 years ago. Born to a royal family, he held within a great desire to help his people, liberating them from physical and mental tribulations. Giving up his inheritance, and setting out in search of the truth which would bring peace to the world; after seven years, he recognized that all sorrow was caused by attachment to having things stay the same when in fact they are constantly changing. As stated else wise, it was the expectation of what we assumed, rather than the acceptance of what is, that caused the hurt.
Think about it.
Not only do the physical world and our relationships change, but so even does our very being. Although Gautama wouldn’t know it, our bodies replace themselves with a new set of cells every seven years to ten years; some of our most important parts are revamped even more rapidly [sources: Stanford University, Northrup]. Physically you are no longer who you were not too long ago.
That’s a striking concept by itself, but let’s take it deeper.
Yes, you have the same memories of that collection of cells that comprised your body a few decades ago, but are you really that exact unchanged person mentally or emotionally? Do you maintain the same worldview you had back then? Are your values the same? Did that which gave you enjoyment then still give it to you now?
There are resemblances, but let’s circle back to the main concept: Nothing – not even us – remains constant. Attempting to cling to the wispy, cloud-like expectation of permanence is the instigator of all the suffering and sorrow we face for when the inevitable occurs, we are hurt, angry, sad, grief-stricken — or all of the aforementioned.
Intellectually, I get it. I even believe it. Emotionally, I’m not that evolved, because I do have expectations, hope, desires, and dreams of what “should” happen as well as how I want my short time on this planet to be. My life, like yours, is driven to a large extent by my expectations.
We each expect to be treated with love and respect. We want society to act in a moral and fair fashion. On our most basic level, we expect we’ll be here through day’s end — and well beyond.
Yet, once we release what we expect will transpire for what actually does, our outlook settles. When we get out of our egos and exercise this heady, potent idea, it becomes apparent that while we are welcome to expect anything we want, that which we actually receive is beyond our control. Per the Buddha, therein lies the struggle. How much sadness, frustration, and anger are caused by attempting to fit our square expectations into the round hole of our lives?
It’s simple in concept, difficult in practice, but take a moment to envision what it would really be like if you began each day with absolutely zero expectations of what is come; to rise to a fresh moment each dawn. Fear of what the day will bring as well as regrets about what it did not, would not exist. Past disappointments are wiped out. Life would be received with wonder and awe, rather than tainted with worry; knowing it will unfold as it will – and we will react exactly as we need to.
How much happier could we be enfolded completely in the NOW, accepting it for what it is and what it is not – rather than for what it could have been?
I expect you’ll need some time to think about that.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker, motivator, and the founder of the Facebook group: Intentions • Affirmations • Manifestations. Get your hopes up by joining his mailing list at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/signup or reach out at email@example.com
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