Twenty five centuries back, Buddha told us that “expectation is the cause of all miseries”. We have heard this time and again from different masters in different forms. What does it really mean to us?
Obviously one problem with the above statement is that it looks direct. When I tried to understand this first, this is basically how my mind interpreted it : if you expect something out of people or situations, you are likely to be disappointed.
The obvious way then to apply this in to life was to drop ‘expectations’.
How does that work. When I have attended an exam, don’t expect a good result? Don’t expect a promotion that’s due ? Don’t expect an appreciation for a good work?
No. That was hard. It wasn’t working. Even when I tried to force myself in to ‘being neutral’ about something, I was not being true to myself. At the bottom of my heart, I was actually expecting and I was happy / sad depending on the way it went.
In some cases where I could actually be really neutral about something, there was neither joy / disappointment at the end. Is this what I wanted ? No chance.
So what does this really mean? If I want to apply this in my life, how do I do that? – It took me a long time to go one level deeper in to these questions.
I realized that my small little mind was constantly caught up in the expectation-joy / expectation-misery cycle. These were so minute that I almost missed them. It is as simple as:
- Someone passes by, I want him to acknowledge me, but he walks off without giving me face
- I am driving, want to overtake a vehicle, the moment I begin, he switches the lane and I can’t do it
- In a team meeting, the manager is talking about an achievement we had, I am expecting him to take my name, but he doesn’t. He just gives credit to the whole team.
One day I tried to make note of these; but believe me, they are pretty many. It looks like, these small cycles actually reinforce the patterns of expectation – reaction in our mind, which we apply to the bigger activities in life too.
When I had tried to apply this the first time, I looked at the bigger activities in life, but now I realize that if I can first address the small cycles, the bigger ones will automatically correct themselves.
How can we do that?
Awareness. Be in the present moment. Slow down in life.
There is a profound technique called Mindfulness. Start practicing it. Look at how your mind being swayed from being at ease & joy. Just notice and I think the tendencies just drop.
It also makes sense to choose those activities prone to such oscillations. For me driving is one such. I get annoyed when some one tries to speed, overtake on the wrong side, honk…..Nowadays I take a decision in the morning that I will be completely aware while driving and will drive slow.
Seems to be working. I am still getting to it. Will come back later with more experiences