Expect Nothing – Zen and Me

I’ve been reading a neat little book by Clarice Bryan called, Expect Nothing.  Clarice is a retired teacher living on the West Coast of the US, and describes herself as a Beginning Buddhist.  It didn’t take me long to blast through her book, but upon finishing it, I decided to re-read it, slowly this time…  and boy, has it been a revelation! 

A great deal of stress disappeared almost instantly from my life when I dropped the following personal motto:  ‘If it has to be, then it’s up to me.’

Lowering my expectations of what I want from others, and myself, has been a huge step in the right direction. 

Let’s face it, people are messy, inconsistent, lazy, tardy, lack respect, are inconsiderate and arrogant.  They don’t realise how hard we work at ‘stuff’ and often fail to understand what we need/want done. 

We get upset when they fail to to do, or say, what we expect of them.  To compensate for this, we work even harder to control them, us, and everything around us.  We want perfection in an imperfect world, and the bad news is, we are never going to get it.  In spite of our best efforts, our floors will get messy, people will let us down, the cup was broken by someone called, ‘Not Me’. 

Or worse, we are sometimes appalled to discover that some of the people around us are vindictive, abusive, or take delight in seeing us work even harder, or fail miserably at something, and this brings us out swinging! 

Then there are the people who love us: 

Our families placed expectations on us: don’t talk to them, be home at this time, eat this, don’t touch that, wear this, learn that, clean this, avoid that, etc. 

And then there are all the expectations society places on us.  We ‘have’ to be thin, orgasmically happy every waking minute, smart, funny, have all our teeth, not smoke, drink 4 litres of water a day, wear this type of clothing, talk in this manner, be decisive, walk that way, get a career, be strong, be a man, be a modern woman, be consistent, be a model employee, use this type of shampoo, don’t eat meat, maintain your lawn, start a business, be a success, don’t let folk down, always be on time, eat everything on your plate, don’t complain etc. etc. 

And trying to keep up can lead to tiredness, stress, anxiety, and eventually, mind numbing indecision which = personal misery. 

All suffering, according to the Buddhists, comes from our expectations, particularly when you say the following two words:  “I Want.” 

Sometimes, it can be too much living up to all those expectations.  Do you know what?  You are perfect just how you are, imperfect! 

Does it really matter if your house isn’t a shrine?  If you failed to get something important done? If you don’t look like a model upon waking of a morning?  Honestly, what is more important, growing and maturing with grace, and a sense of fun and adventure, relaxing surrounded by those you love, and accepting them for who and what they are, or looking good / successful / and perfect, while wallowing in internal misery?   

So, just for today, take a little time out to laugh, love, and live a little.  Spend some time with your kids, draw a picture with them and pin it on the fridge, do something nice for all the people living in your house, be considerate, be kind… and do you know what?  I don’t expect you to do any of the above!  Just be you 🙂 

I’ll end with this quote:  “On the other hand, you could just relax and realise that behind all the worry, complaint, and disapproval that goes on in your mind, the sun is always going to come up in the morning, moving across the sky and going down in the evening.  The birds are always out there collecting their food and making their nests and flying across the sky.  The grass is always being blown by the wind or standing still.  Food and flowers are growing out of the earth.  There’s enormous richness. 

You could develop your passion for life and your curiousity and your interest. 

You could connect with your joyfulness. 

You could start right now.”

Pema Chodron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pema_Ch%C3%B6dr%C3%B6n

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