You know, everyone is carrying an invisible load. Since it is invisible, you remain unaware of such weight as well as oblivious to its continuous piling up. From the moment you can recall to the present one, it has been on your consciousness. As a result, you have accepted it implicitly like a citizen accepts the laws of the country of residence. It is an unequivocal, silent, and unconditional acceptance. If you haven’t guessed it already, I am referring to the huge weight of expectations.
You may believe that you don’t have any or that you have only the basic and realistic ones. Think again, I urge you, after going through the following section.
Expectations are those desires you believe you have the right to see fulfilled. Due to your own conditioning by numerous factors, you develop expectations. They are the primary cause of all grief and stress. Desires, in turn, are those lingering thoughts that you don’t abandon. Those thoughts that you have pursued and followed; these are the building blocks of your world.
Cemented in attachment, you keep erecting walls of desires around you eventually finding yourself completely trapped with no escape doors. It is a profound subject and I will cover it in detail at another time.
For now, I will focus on the present topic of expectations. Expectations ruin your world while desires sustain it and thoughts create it. These all are products of the mind, generally a restless and ignorant mind. Expectations, I figure, are of three types. As follows:
Expectations from self
Based on your education, samskara, upbringing, your social circle, and your professional life — all of which play an important role in your conditioning — you expect yourself to be a certain way before others. You have set for yourself certain benchmarks and standards derived out of information passed on to you in many forms; normally based on the religion you practice and the company you keep in addition to other social and personal factors. When these expectations, the ones you have from yourself, are not met, they give birth to shame and guilt. You feel low and tormented.
In a state of as much denial as disbelief, you feel miserable and lost. The eternal you stays buried under these expectations, the majority of which are a big load of rubbish; putrefying garbage and nothing else. Filter them. Only keep the ones that strengthen your consciousness and make you a more compassionate person. Contemplate on what kind of a person you would like to be as opposed to how you would like to be seen as by others. You may gain some insight!
Expectations from others
These are the ones you justify and wrongly believe that you rightfully deserve. Whether it is reciprocation, love, things, words, gestures — whatever they may be. Based on all that you have observed and absorbed, all that you have been told and taught, and all that you feel you have done, you desire a certain outcome, often favorable. And because you feel what you desire is legitimate, just and natural, you have added to the burden of expectations.
With these, sometimes you are also able to put pressure on the one you expect from all the while increasing your own. When these expectations are not fulfilled, they give you grief and disappointment proportionate to the magnitude of your expectation. Make a list of all the people you care about and all that you expect from them. When done, know that they expect just as much from you. You relinquish yours and with your purified energy they will accept you the way you are gradually lowering their own expectations from you. That’s how nature works. Don’t just take my word for it; try it and see it for yourself.
Others’ from you
These are designed to give you stress. You are under constant pressure from peers, bosses, friends, and family. You have laid your burden on them and they, on you. Beyond the most basic ones, the rest can be dumped. Whether you fulfill their expectations or not, awareness alone is sufficient to condition you and disturb your already perturbed state of mind. When you are clear about the first ones (from yourself) and are able to let go of the second ones (from others), these ones will disappear automatically. Your newfound individuality will silently condition others and their expectations.
Do what you may; you must never part with morality. It is the foundation of bliss, the mother of all virtues. A virtuous life, however busy or entangled it may be, will always result in peace.
After writing my last post in June, I traveled to Kamakhya (Eastern India – Assam). I had to complete an important initiatory process there. I had the time and opportunity to visit Buddhist monasteries in various regions. Most of them are beautifully set in the living mountains, flourishing with flora, wonderful past describing.
My visits only reaffirmed my own thinking that any attempt to institutionalize spirituality will result in a religion, like any other, with a greater emphasis on execution rather than exploration. The soul of spirituality leaves when labeled as religion. More busy doing than discovering, the lamas were more engrossed in following tradition than in finding the truth.
In the spirit of an itinerant ascetic, I ranged the Eastern Himalayas before parking myself in a near-perfect cottage tucked away in the woods. Though not as sequestered as my previous locations, it was utterly quiet and serene still. I sat there for a month-long mantra sadhana. Ah! What sheer joy!
You have to experience the Himalayan solitude to know what I mean. It is only in solitude that you will discover the drift of your thoughts and the nature of your mind. You discover true beauty. And, beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder but in the mind of the perceiver. The cleaner the mind, the greater the beauty, and the quieter the mind, the longer lasting the experience. An empty mind is not the devil’s workshop; a passionate mind is. An empty mind, in its own right, is but a divine blessing.
A quiet mind that has discovered its own nature will set you free. When was the last time you felt free? Like, really free? Free like the rivers that flow unattached, like the wind that simply cannot be bound, like the bird soaring high in the sky or like a mendicant who has discarded the worldly ways and has shaken off fear, guilt, shame and traditions that had soiled his consciousness earlier?
A concluding thought, born out of dental hygiene:
Life’s like a tube of toothpaste. Initially, it feels full and plenty. The feeling stays until the first few uses. Thereafter, its shape takes a dent. With each subsequent squeeze, you find yourself adjusting its shape, especially if you are someone with attention to detail. Barely do you reach midway, you now have to squeeze bottom up each time. Before you know it, you are at the end of it. But just when you think you are done with it, you squeeze harder and some more comes out.
One is rarely out of toothpaste altogether. The last few uses give you the opportunity to buy a new one before you run out of luck with the current one that is now looking flat like a man under debt or expectations!
Similarly, life feels long, full, and plenty at first. Childhood years go by real fast. Afterward, it is mostly about adjustments before you find yourself at the end of it squeezing harder. But a new body awaits you after you discard this one much like the toothpaste. Life is what you make of it. With nuclear energy in the nucleus of every cell in your body, there are billions in you. It is your choice whether you leave it buried for the fear of radioactivity, or make a nuclear reactor of great utility, or if you let your dark side rule you and make instruments of destruction. The choice is yours.
Go on enjoy! Squeeze the best, not the hell, out of life. Drop your worries for what is in the book of fate must come to pass. Let go of the meaningless struggle. Watch every moment unfold. Discover the inner ambrosial reservoir of eternal youth, beauty, bliss, and joy. Share your life like you share the toothpaste but be yourself like the toothbrush you don’t share.
[Originally shared as an email. Edited Jun 2014.]