When I was in seminary, one of the things Dr Ricutti taught us in Intro to Preaching was to have a title that would catch people’s interest. My guess is when you saw the title you thought about the A & E television station (Arts and Entertainment). I wish I could say this is what I have been thinking about this week. In some respects, I have. However, the A and E I have been spending a good part of my time thinking about are two things we tend to do easily in our lives: assumptions and expectations. It is amazing how much drama, trauma, and suffering we can eliminate from our lives when we practice living an A & E free life. Today, I just want to focus on the E, and maybe next time I will focus on the A.
I remember the first time I read the idea of living and loving with no expectations in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Mastery of Love. It made me stop and think how I or anyone else could live without having expectations about others and situations. The past few years I have been learning how to live without expectations. One of the things I came to realize is that much of my suffering from the past was related to my having expectations about others or about situations.
Learning to live without expectations is a process that I am still trying to master. In some cases, I have noticed my ability to release my expectations. at other times, however, it seems that it is more my response to the expectations that has changed. I am more mindful of how I am responding when things do not go as planned. That is not to say that I do not have an emotional response at times, sometimes I still do. However, I am generally more aware of my reaction and am better able to see how my response might be related to expectations I had about the situation. So now, rather then spending energy being disappointed or frustrated because someone did not meet my expectations, I release that energy, focus on the positives in the situation, and use that energy in a positive and life-creating manner.
I was sharing with someone the other day that learning to do this was like learning any new practice. It was an ongoing practice. The more I practice it, the better I become at it and the easier it is. It reminded me of what it was like when I first had to start wearing contact lenses. It was so hard and nerve wracking to get the contacts in and out of my eyes. Now after more then a decade of wearing them it is no big deal. Practice, practice, practice! This is the message that the wise voices keep reminding me as I strive to transform spiritually and evolve to a higher place in my own state of being.
Perhaps the place I have practiced releasing expectations the most is in my relationship with Zoë and with myself. In both situations, I have found that each day is filled with gifts for me to unwrap. Rather then focus on what I expect to happen each day, or what I expect myself to do, or what I expect her to do, I work on being fully present with myself and enjoying the time with me to the fullest. Crazy as it might sound, since I began releasing my expectations of Zoë, I have come to have a greater appreciation of the little things she does that I once took for granted. You know those things you expect your spouse to do. When she does something now I see it as an expression of love, a gift to be enjoyed and appreciated. The same thing for me, when I stop expecting myself to be a certain way, it frees me to be the best me I can be and enjoy being with myself. It allows me to be free, to have a greater compassion for myself, for Zoë and for others.
It has also changed my relation ship with the Creator as I have become aware of my expectations of my relationship with the Divine. I had to spend some time thinking about what expectations I had of God and then learning to create a new relationship with God where I had let go of those expectations. I also had to look at where those expectations had come from. As I released those expectations, I also found my beliefs about the Creator changed as well.
Is it possible to live without expectations, I am not sure. However, I have learned that it is possible to rethink the way we respond when they are not met so we can reduce the suffering and anxiety in our lives.