The Wonderful Life of Not Expecting
I am in the Sahaj Marg Ashram in the Himalayas, trying once again to free myself of the bad habit of expecting, of wishing.
What is going on?
To expect is a prescription for frustration. When you expect something to happen, or when you expect someone to do something, you’re suffering from the “this-should-be-and-I-want-it-but-it-is-not-happening” syndrome: You believe that something should happen, you want it to happen, and you are probably already frustrated that it has not happened.
The Sahaj Marg meditation teaches you to let go––even to stop wanting, because if we want something, we are apparently dissatisfied with what we already have; that is why we want something else. In other words, we do not want what is, which is another source of frustration.
Just let go, let it be. Express your need, and let it be. If it is meant to be, it will happen. And if it does not happen, it was not meant to be.
“Hmm,” you are probably mumbling to yourself: “Just let it be??????”
Yes. Let it be. Free yourself from the belief that you are or should be in control of everything that is happening to you or should be happening to you, and thus what you want, you expect to happen. Surrender to life, to reality, and become like a feather floating on the waves of life. You will be calmer. You will stop focusing inwardly––on why this or that is not happening. You will stop endlessly processing the same information in your head, managing to accomplish nothing more than deeper and deeper frustration.
When you stop expecting and wanting, your eyes, instead of focusing inward, “turn around” to notice the world, to smell the roses, to live in the present––to enjoy your life. Your mind is calm, because it is no longer so busy fighting reality.
I have been struggling for two years to change my life around to practice this meditation––to stop expecting and start enjoying. It is not easy, especially since I am Jewish, and we Jews notoriously live in our heads. From the moment we wake up until we fall asleep, exhausted, we are busy thinking, expecting, and wanting. It’s true that this characteristic makes us very successful in our endeavors, but I believe we pay a huge price: We are miserable. I am certain that more Jews regularly see psychologists or psychiatrists than any other ethnic group.
I am struggling, but I am learning.
Let me give you an example:
We are riding in a car to the Himalayas. It is a long ordeal of bumping from one pothole to the next. After about twelve hours of this bouncing around, I have had enough, and I want a hotel room, with a hot shower and a comfortable bed.
Now, imagine that you are expecting to get to that hotel. But where is it? You start to become anxious. Why haven’t you seen a hotel somewhere along this road? If there aren’t any, you start to think that Indians have no entrepreneurial spirit: “Couldn’t they even build a hotel on a highly traveled road? Does it take a genius to figure that out?”
Or, let us assume instead that you are more reasonable than that, and do not start criticizing the whole Indian nation because no hotel appears when you want one. You are just tired. What do you feel? You feel sorry for yourself. You sulk like a child.
Now, imagine that you are able to stop yourself from expecting and even stop wanting. You are aware of what you need but you do not expect it nor do you make a scene how much you want it. Instead, you just relax and enjoy the scenery. And if a hotel should happen to appear along the road, what a wonderful surprise for you to enjoy! You are like a child who receives an unexpected gift: What a wonderful life, full of surprises!
If you happen to be surprised by bad news rather than good news, at least you did not have to suffer through a frustrating and useless loop of thoughts––“This should never have happened …” “What did I do to deserve this terrible luck?” “Oh God, why me?” etc.
Let me give you another example of accepting life (and thus death), not fighting it:
I have a relative who is around 86 years old. He almost died twice and was revived. I asked him how he feels about those experiences. Is he scared of death?
He feels very well, he said. When death comes, it will come. He is at peace. He felt that he has had a good life so what is there to lament about.
At that point his wife joined in. “And when he passes away, I will go to an old age home,” she said. “No use being a burden to my children.” This was said in a very peaceful, loving voice: What is, is. Want nothing, expect nothing. Accept, with love, whatever comes.
But the broader point is not how one should live when dying. This is also about how one should live while living.
Now the doubt: If we can be sanguine in the face of anything life brings, could that destroy our eagerness to succeed in life, to move forward? To have a career? Not at all. Here in the ashram, I have met some very successful businessmen, artists, and scientists.
These people still work, produce, and succeed––but they do not act compulsively. They just joyfully let life take its course. They do not try to force life to go in the particular direction they want and expect it to go. Instead, they go with the flow of life, enjoying it as they live it and as they respond to needs and new conditions life offers. Not “forcing” their wishful thinking on life. Just “joining life” as is.
If you can learn to live this way, you will find that more people accept and like you, enjoy you, and even join you. You are not ‘pushy,” angry, frustrated participant of life. You are much more pleasant partner of life and you might become even more successful in your career and your relationships.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes