A great practice is to become aware of when we have expectations throughout the day … and then practice tossing them out and trying to work without them.
Let’s look a little deeper into how to do that.
With practice, you can become better and better at recognizing your expectations as they arise. Don’t worry about these expectations arising — that’s a natural thing that our minds do to try to control life a bit, as life is uncontrollable and that can be scary. Just allow the expectations to arise, without resentment or anxiety that they’re there. They’re perfectly fine, just clouds arising in the sky.
But as you notice these expectations arising, try an experiment: toss them out into the ocean (or into a volcano to be incinerated, as one Sea Change member suggested), toss them wherever you like. Where they go is not important — the act of letting them go is the important bit.
This is freedom, an act of release, an act of liberation.
Take a moment to enjoy being free of the burden of these expectations. They are a burden to live up to, a burden for life to live up to, for others to live up to. Without them, we are free to just be. To enjoy life as it is. To appreciate others just as they are.
Now, how do we live and work without these expectations that have been guiding us, weighing us down? This is the practice for this week:
- Start by just noticing. See what is in front of you, whether it’s the physical environment free from your expectations, another person, a task that you’ve put in front of yourself (writing, sewing, running, washing a dish). Just see it, just notice whatever you can, see things clearly without the filter of expectations.
- Next, act. You can take a step without the guidance and burden of expectations: just take a step. You don’t know what will happen, but that’s OK. You’ll be fine, even without knowing. Just take an action: it might be writing a few words of a chapter or blog post, or doing a single pushup, or putting on your running shoes and starting to run. It turns out, you can do all of these things, in the moment, without needing to know how they will go, without needing to know how things will be.
- Be curious. Expectations are a way of thinking we know how things are, how they’ll turn out … but we don’t really know. Instead, replace “knowing” how things are or will be, with curiosity. Be curious to see how things will go, without knowing the answer. Be curious about how people are, how you are, without thinking you already know. Because you don’t — none of us do. And that’s exciting — not knowing can be deliciously fun.
- Appreciate what you find. You notice things and people as they are — and they aren’t exactly what you expected. But that’s OK. In fact, if you really pay attention, you’ll see some amazing things. Pay attention and appreciate what you see, what you experience. Appreciate the act of writing, of running, of doing the dishes, of listening to a friend. Be grateful for this moment, as it is.
Now, as you go through these steps, there will be expectations that arise again. That’s perfectly normal, perfectly fine. Don’t worry about that. See it happening, when you can, and then start again. Let go of the expectations (toss them away gently), then go over the four steps above.
Be warned that this process doesn’t go smoothly, and you’ll find yourself resisting various parts of it, or struggling. That’s OK too. Work with this process without expectations of how you’ll do, but just try it. And practice. And practice again. See what happens.