Search This Blog


Buddhism in the News


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Letting Go of Expectations.

The chaos of life streams through this mind, yet ownership isn't imposed upon it. It's free to pass through like a stranger in the night; registering its frenetic, holographic delusions but streaming out the other side due to keeping the mind open and relaxed. Tonight is a night where balance has returned. Tonight there is simply stark but relieving acceptance.

Like Buddha before us, letting go is gaining freedom. Once we let go of trying to control everything, life seems to flow with greater ease. It's not unlike a twig floating down a meandering river. It doesn't try to stop or force the current into an unrealistic upstream reversal of flow. It just lets go and enjoys the ride. Letting it take it where it will.

Life is like that it seems. We try and control the journey with some imagined belief in a power we don't have. There is no power over altering the flow of life. It will take us where it wants, so the only thing left to do is let go and learn to adapt to each bend in the river and enjoy the scenery while it lasts. It's once we let go that we notice a world that we were missing while being so focused on changing how our life is unfolding.

Suddenly we notice a sharpness, beauty and softness to life that we missed before. The trees seem to take on a new sacredness that brings us peace when before we pushed through them on our way to nowhere. It's why the cliche of "stopping to smell the roses" persists. When we stop trying to push toward a specific expectation we start to see that life has more to offer than we had ever realized before.

So, tonight, I've dropped the heavy backpack of the burdensome stones of expectations and am moving freely and effortlessly across the middle-path like a light and unconfined cloud. Relaxed to take whatever form the moment molds. Acceptance of being overwhelmed at times; unburdening myself of the chains of worry that enslave me and delay realignment with the peace that is an uncluttered mind.

Expectations are like fairy tales and myths; they are alluring but ultimately leave us disillusioned and disappointed, which are the fore-bearers of suffering. Today, I am letting go and it couldn't be more liberating.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Anahita said...

Indeed. This reminds me of a quote from yoga practitioner Anne Cushman which I think you might appreciate:

"These days, my practice is teaching me to embrace imperfection: to have compassion for all the ways things haven't turned out as I planned, in my body and in my life - for the ways things keep falling apart, and failing, and breaking down. It's less about fixing things, and more about learning to be present for exactly what is."

Learning to live in the flow of life... the constant balance between acting as proactive citizens in one's own life + letting go of the illusion that we can control our experience (and perhaps more relevant: the illusion that this control will somehow make us happy)

Charmaine said...

This post is what I needed to read today..but it's easier said than done. I guess it takes a lot of hard work to not expect the world to be what I think it should be...I consciously need to start working on it for my own peace of mind..Thanks for the nice post James.

G said...

Great post, James - next comes letting go of letting go, and thereby letting go of any idea of liberation!

Lesley said...

Beautiful! Speaks to my heart!

Lesley said...

Beautiful! Speaks to my heart!

sandy said...

mmm. for me another way of saying no one can appoint you or disappoint you because they don't know you and neither do I know myself. It's coming and going. Let's see.

Anonymous said...

Hi - new to your blog and appreciating it. I struggle with a dilemma around this particular piece of wisdom about letting go of expectations. On the one hand, I can tell that part of me years to let go, and feel the release of years of disappointment that I haven't achieved certain things I've dreamed of since my youth. On the other hand, I ask myself: where is the healthy role in life for the desire to pursue dreams, and the desire to help bring about positive changes in the world? Somewhere there is a balance in which I imagine that a healthy, spiritually grounded approach to life is to follow our heart's dreams and yearnings, but simultaneously let go of the expectations about how things will unfold. Is this what you're suggesting with your teaching?

They call him James Ure said...


Instead of desires, I think a more skillful approach is to have goals. Goals are about setting manageable and attainable outcomes based on a flexible plan; grounded in the reality that they might not work out. So, that from the beginning you know that you might have to adjust those goals as you go along—in other words, with goals, you’re prepared for revisions.

Whereas, desires are based on pure craving, which demand a particular outcome to be happy. This means our expectations are unreasonable and will always let us down. And having placed, so much desire into the desired outcome we are devastated when they don't come true--and we suffering greatly.

Again, with goals, we are ready or prepared for set-backs and have a back-up plan on what to revise in that instance. So, we aren’t as attached to a particular outcome with goals—we hope things will unfold the way we planned but when planning goals we have a back-up plan. You temper your desires in this manner.

The whole meaning of a desire is to dream big and have HUGE expectations that those dreams will unfold EXACTLY how we desire them to. When they don't, we are devastated and don't know where to go from there.

So, set manageable goals with back-up plans and you should be less driven and attached by desired expectations. That’s the way I understand the difference and how to go about planning and living life without being pulled into the unmanageable cravings of desire.

I’m not a teacher though and I struggle with desires versus goals daily but I have picked up a small bit of knowledge and experience in my years of practicing Dharma. But I’m not an expert by any means. Still, I hope this advice helps.

They call him James Ure said...

@Anahita...Imperfections are great lessons because they are what keep us humble and remind us of the imperfect nature of life. So, yes, embracing them liberates us from some undo expectations.

Great comment Anahita.

@Charmaine...It certainly does take a lot of work but the glimpses of freedom from desire that I have seen make it worth staying with it. Thanks for the compliments!!


@Sandy...Yep, there is no self to fulfill.

Anonymous said...

The Heart Sutra! :D

ShareThis Option