“Without expectations, there are no disappointments, nor is there suffering.” That is one of the phrases we learned when we were very young, and it still has extraordinary validity. Expectations tend to ruin the nicest surprises, and even in the best of cases, are short-lived.
Sometimes it happens that “reality exceeds our expectations,” but as I said before, it’s short-lived, because a second later we “expect” something new, and even better than before. And we can spend an entire life like that. Expecting things to improve, and being disappointed… Or we can cut our expectations to the minimum, paying attention to what really happens or concentrating on the present.
The future is always complicated because in spite of all our efforts to predict it, it is uncertain. The past also gets complicated by all the distortions we impose on our memories, and the present… I don’t know very well what happens in the present because I rarely find myself there. But those few times have had an extraordinary power to reveal or unveil what I perceive, in a way that’s different from what I perceive through the tinge of expectation or memory.
I believe that of all the suggestions I’ve received, the one that brings me closest to being in the present is the principle that says, “If you pursue an end you enchain yourself. If you do everything as an end in itself, you liberate yourself.”
This suggestion is apparently linked only to the future, to what I want to achieve, to what I want to obtain, but it has the advantage that when I do something as an end in itself, I locate myself in the present, and therefore I receive the benefits I mentioned earlier. I begin to perceive in a different way, and the register is one of liberation, of letting go of expectations, without analyzing or condemning them. On letting go of expectations, I place myself in the space and time I’m living in, and in spite of being paradoxical, this allows me to plan in a different way. Planning is something we do with the future in mind, and often – if not always – these plans are no more than expectations. But when I place myself correctly in the present, letting go of expectations, I can make plans from a new perspective.
This happens when I travel. I have the possibility of filling my trips with expectations, or of simply going and staying open to whatever presents itself. Minimal planning is needed for the practical aspects, and the rest is about trying to do everything as an end in itself. Trying to be present as much as possible, and being internally flexible. I believe that this flexibility is an attitude that’s opposite to that of having expectations.
In conclusion, I’ve been experimenting with this thing of expectations and I have the strong impression that the more I work with the attitude of letting go, the more I understand and the more I remember to come back to the present time and time again. As for illusions, I don’t see much difference between them and expectations. Maybe expectations are more specific, and illusions more generalized in time and space, but without getting too technical about mechanisms of illusion and all that, I believe at least that dis-illusionment, in spite of being being experienced as suffering, is a signal along the way the indicates where to go and where not to go…
March 19, 2021