Often we who are oriented in Western ways think a life without expectations is a life of resignation and aimlessness. How can we possibly be successful without expecting something definite and specific that we work towards?
This Western view believes success is accomplished by taking life by the horns and making things happen, as well as acquiring all one can along the way.
But serenity is lost along the way. Just ask any “successful” person how much happiness, calmness and deep satisfaction he/she really experiences—especially during the wee hours of a lonely night.
The question to ask is “When is enough enough?” If the answer is “As soon as…………………..…” there is no sense of contentment and ease.
This is suffering.
Eastern philosophy points to another way of living that does bring happiness and wellbeing. It is to let go of expectations and simply do the right thing each moment. We do it because it is the right thing, rather than what we may get from it.
Gandhi advised us to do that which needs to be done, notice the results, and leave the outcome to God. No expectations.
Simply take the best action we can take at the moment. And sometimes that is no action—non-doing—which is another kind of action.
Appropriate action, doing the next right thing, takes into account one’s own values as well as the happiness of others.
What is our highest value? To get—or give?
Are we here to connect with—or compete with others?
Are we willing to speak and act in ways that opens our heart to others?
Connection demands that we look deeply into our motives that cause our actions. True intimacy is the process of knowing oneself.
As I watch my mind I notice an old habit of expecting and hoping for specific results. For instance if I do “this” I want “that” to happen.
If I am kind to someone I hope/want them to be kind to me.
Ah, yes, expectations.
When I find myself doing something in order to get, I stop, breathe deeply and fully. Then I remember that I haven’t given the results to God. I’m hanging onto them.
I begin again. The only control we have over our destiny is the choice we make in the present moment.
Our words and deeds are like seeds planted in the fertile soil of our mind. Seeds produce according to their essence and the ways they have been nurtured.
My intention is to nurture each moment with lovingkindness. Therefore may I notice when I expect a particular outcome.
May I let go of my tight grasp on life and trust the flow of the universe.
The more I do this, the easier it becomes. It’s living in an “as-if” moment. I don’t know what will happen, but each moment holds infinite possibilities.
Confucius taught the importance of “as if.” This is an intention (present moment) not an expectation (future oriented.)
As this is practiced it becomes a ritual.
Rituals are the things we do that bring us a sense of meaning and comfort in this ever changing world. This expands our mind into a larger world.
Some of my rituals are a morning meditation practice, study of inspirational books, cup of coffee and daily exercise.
When a ritual is done with intention, not just by rote, the effect of it lingers. Small changes take place that open one to greater possibilities.
Many years ago I attended a Sufi workshop in which we took on the persona of Moses. We whirled our “Moses” nature which caused us to step into another way of being. This was an “as if” moment in which I felt noble and wise. Even though the mood was temporary it changed things, as nothing can return to what it formerly was.
We cannot crawl back into the old self as it’s now too small for us!
These small changes gradually bring forth major shifts in awareness in which we act differently.
By repeating rituals of acting “as if” we evolve into a wiser and happier being because we have opened space within us.
A recent worldwide event, the Worldwide Women’s March on January 21, 2017, has evoked a huge shift. Millions of people joined together with a common purpose, but without a specific goal.
The purpose was to ensure that people of all genders and nationalities are treated respectfully and equally allowing freedom. It was a protest against authoritarian domination and bullying.
This march started something which is still evolving. We are creating the space for new systems of government that connect in fairness and equality, rather than one of building walls to keep people out.
Safety comes by finding new ways of relating to the entire world, joining in common purposes so that everyone can live well.
We create this by opening our mind, acting “as if” and asking new questions.
Here are some provocative questions:
“How can I serve that which is higher than my own self-interest?”
“How can I open my heart and mind to diversity by truly listening to another, inquiring about their ideas without judging them right or wrong?”
“What will cause me to feel more connected to others and to life?”
By sincerely asking deep questions without rushing into quick answers we begin to hear the voices of our better angels.