Monday, January 12, 2009

What Do You Expect?

Expectations can be a subtle thing.... or not.  Do I expect life to be a certain way?  Happy, satisfying, trouble free?  Do I expect my day to unfold as planned?  Most of the time we glide along without noticing our expectations. ...Not until they give us trouble.  It's like our muscles or the hot water tank, we don't pay a lot of attention to them until they ache or break.

Even when they start to work their mischief we may not realize that expectations are the source of our problems.   Do we expect to enjoy someone's company, to be thanked, to finish some project by a certain time, for it to be sunny today?  How many expectations do we have in a day?

And what's the opposite of expectation?  Is it just being open or okay with what is?  .... just recognizing what is and resting there for a bit, maybe deciding our next move from that open spot.  Or just being okay with "I don't know."

I had an opportunity to look at expectations yesterday courtesy of my mother.  My mother is one of my biggest teachers.  After spending an afternoon with her, as much as I know her, as much as I think I am doing my spiritual work I left her company feeling defeated and frustrated and a little depressed.  When I got home I started to "get curious" about it.  What went on?  Why did I feel like that.  I realized  that the subtle, underlying expectations were  she might appreciate my visit, that she might engage in some conversation, that she might be happy or positive in some way.  When I think about it these are unrealistic expectations based on past history, but there they were when I looked.  I also expected that I would be fine with however she behaved and that I could handle it all skillfully.  So many expectations wedged into such a small space! 

And where do expectations fit into the Dharma?  They are part of attachment (the 2nd noble truth), that reminds us that it is our attachment that causes suffering.  We are attached to having things "our way".  We see it from our personal point of view.... (self cherishing as it is sometimes called).   Without awareness we spend a lot of time looking at the world from the point of view of "this is what would make me happy" rather than from a wider perspective.  We forget the other person's point of view or the larger picture.  The part of attachment that took me some time to get is that the pushing away of  the things we don't want is also a form of attachment.  So there we are in our habitual states of either wanting or not wanting.  We spend a lot of time there (or at least I do).

So I got another close up and personal view of my "expectations" and the mischief those little monkeys can get up to when you're not watching.  It reminded me that training is ongoing and  that I am grateful that I don't have a toothache and my hot water tank supplied me with all the hot water I needed this morning!  

And what are the expectations of the cats in the collage at the top of the page?  Or the mice?  Or the birds?  Or is it merely us humans that have expectations?  This collage is created with acrylics on mat board with painted, cut script paper.

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