Thursday, August 9, 2012


I have a routine first thing each morning, like many people, of breakfast, coffee, listening to the news, checking the news headlines online, etc. Once that is done, i turn the radio off so i can read, and the first thing i always start with is an app on my iPad called "Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice," by Cheri Huber.

The app opens with a new quote each day, followed by a comment on that quote by Cheri herself and an "assignment" for the day. This is my second year through the app. Today's quote was:

"It is a great obstacle to happiness to expect too much."

Bernard de Fontenelle

To which Cheri wrote:

"Today, lower your expectations and enjoy the happiness of being with what is."

While i agree with the original quote completely, i don't know if i abhor Cheri's response or simply hate it with every fiber of my being. In either case, i don't like it.

It is an obstacle to happiness to expect too much; i would agree with that completely. But, not because expectations are bad in and of themselves. Expectations are great things. Expectations are what drive the world forward. If people didn't expect bigger, better, faster, healthier, safer, more efficient, etc., etc., outcomes in their lives then we would all still be living in the stone age and discussions on the lives of the Neanderthal would be moot because we would still be them.

Expectations are good things. Great things. What is bad is our fixation on them, our willingness to hang our lives on their fulfillment. What makes them horrendous is our willingness to define our success or failure, our happiness or despondency on whether that expectation was met. When we let this happen, sooner or later we are all doomed to failure and despondency.

The sane ones all have expectations and they put in the work that could, should lead to their fulfillment. But, and this is the reason they are the sane ones, if it isn't fulfilled, they don't take it personally. They analyze it, figure out what went wrong, and make a new plan. One option may be to drop that expectation because it turns out to have been unreasonable. Another option may be to reformulate your plan and try again in another manner. With other options in between.

But, to suggest that a good approach to life is to "lower your expectations" is absurd. (IMO. As always, IMO) Lowering your expectations across the board, as this seems to be suggesting, will lead you nowhere.

Even in in the world of spirituality, why would you sit if you had no expectations. Why bother? We sit, chant, visualize, pray, whatever you do, because we expect "something." Now i have to be very careful here because i could equally argue that sitting with expectations of results is absolutely contrary to what you should be doing. In fact that dooms you to failure. So it sounds like a contradiction here, i know.

What i'm trying to say is that we sit, not expecting results, but because we expect that someday, at sometime in our lives, we will find that the truth the Buddha talked about will manifest in our lives as well. We will get it. We will see it. We won't have learned anything, per se, we won't have obtained anything, nothing will be given to us by a teacher, but someday that "Ah ha" light will go on and the smile will appear. I will "know" that truth has manifested as Dave.

Yes, i agree with Cheri that having no expectations can lead to happiness. There are rare days where i do wake up and for some reason expect nothing of my life other than what it is right now. And while that lasts i am very happy. Those are nice days. And that's fine for Lao Bendan. But Dave always pops back up and reminds me that i am a complete professional failure and that he still wants more in life. Those days are terrible.

Still, i refuse to accept that a successful approach to life is to lower your expectations. No, no, no, and still no. What needs doing is to lower our expectation that our expectations will be fulfilled. Lower our expectations that their fulfillment is what will make us happy. Lower our expectations that our success or failure is decided by whether or not our expectations have been met.

But never give up expecting more of yourself and the world. Never give up expecting that we as a people can be better, more loving, more compassionate, more open. Never give up expecting that we can work towards a better world. Never give up expecting that you will finally give up all pettiness in your life, give up gossip, prejudice, ill will. Never give up expecting that you will come to respect and care for everyone. Never give up expecting that you will see that you are truth manifesting in bodily form and so is that person sitting across from you.

Expectations are great things.

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