What Were You Expecting?

Jai Bhagwan!

OMA friend of mine mentioned that she didn’t accomplish as much as she expected with all of her children in school now.  This started me thinking about expectations.  I expect my children to be obedient to the family rules, do their chores and keep up with their homework.  I expect that eating healthy foods and exercising will keep me in good physical health.  These are “reasonable” expectations, right?  I expect things to go as scheduled, for customer service to be courteous and other adults to act responsibly.  I’ve clearly left the realm of reasonable expectations but I haven’t ventured into the territory of the unreasonable, right?  I expect to have no difficulties in life, win the lottery, have my peaches ripen on the 10th of September and live to be 150 years old.  Now I have clearly left the realm of even semi-reasonable, these are all definitely unreasonable expectations.  As Melanie at Yoga Yammer said, “I can’t control a peach tree.”

The reality is, however, that all of my expectations listed above are unreasonable.  Obviously, I cannot control how long I will live and so it is ludicrous to expect that I should live to be 150 years old.  Isn’t it equally impossible for me to control my children’s actions?  Doesn’t that mean it is equally ludicrous of me to expect them to meet my expectations?  Gurudev, my teacher, says, “Expectation is frustration waiting to happen.”  We have expectations because we want to control our lives, we want to feel safe and secure knowing that we really do have some level of control over what happens around us.  As our expectations are not met, we become frustrated because we couldn’t make things happen the way we wanted them to happen.  We begin to recognize that we couldn’t control the situation.  The common reaction is to listen to the ego and its claims that we really can control the situation if we just try harder.  “Jon would be a good student if I were a better parent,” says the ego.  In some cases, we recognize that we really have no control over the situation and this is when most of us give up.  For some, that recognition is terrifying and the world becomes an ever more dangerous place and the only safety in the world is to remain locked away behind closed doors.  A very few, however, recognize that there is only one thing that any of us can control and that is our response to the world around us.

Here is a very simple real world example:  We have scheduled to have a new washer and dryer delivered to our home Friday.  The salesman told us to expect—expectations are EVERYWHERE!—a phone call Thursday to schedule a four hour block when the delivery people expect to arrive.  For convenience, we will assume that the call will be made on Thursday and delivery will be set between 8:00 AM and Noon.  If I expect the delivery to happen between 8:00 AM and Noon but it is delayed until 2:00 PM then I will be frustrated because my expectation was not met.  Clearly something happened that caused the delay, something I could not control but I will be frustrated simply because the delivery did no meet my expectation, it was late.  Of course, deliveries and service calls are never delayed; so, this is never a problem, right?

I know that someone reading this is yelling, “STOP!  How am I supposed to accomplish anything, amount to anything, DO anything; if I don’t have any expectations?!”  The same way you always have, decide to do something and do it; however, DO NOT create any expectation about what you are doing or about what the end results will be.  If you need to wait for a delivery from 8:00 AM until Noon, then wait.  What happens at Noon if the delivery has not been made?  That is now entirely up to you!  You have done your part, you waited.  Hopefully nothing bad happened to cause the delay.  If you have time, you can choose to wait longer.  If you do not have time, you can leave or call the store or leave a note on the door or ask a neighbor to wait for you, the possibilities are endless!  Simply decide what you will do and do it; let go of the rest.  As Gurudev says, “First, make sure you are going in the right direction and then accept whatever comes,” or to quote a familiar hymn, “Do what is right; let the consequence follow.”