Buddha said it long, long time ago: ‘We suffer because we have expectations’. So stop suffering is simple: stop having expectations.
But stop having them, means retraining our mind, because for years and years we have allowed our mind to wander, to fantasize, to have all these thoughts in advance. Our mind, our brain cells have become accustomed to it. To undo this we have to train, have to train hard and be very alert when it’s happening.
The problems with having expectations is that it leads to a lot of needless suffering. For instance: you have a party on a Saturday. Monday you are already looking forward to this party. In your mind you built a whole scenario who will be there, what you will be wearing, what kind of awesome music they will play. You see this handsome girl before you; the one you are secretly in love with for a long time. You’re sure she is going to be there and this time you are going to ask her to dance with you. Of course she will fall in love with you, leave the party with you and you will have a night full of romance. If you have to rate this party on a scale from one to ten it will be a nine.
Now it’s party time. Your favorite music, great people, good food and the girl you want to see. But she looks interested in somebody else, talks all night with another guy. You dance, you have fun, it’s just not happening with this girl as you hoped for. So you go home disappointed. The party wasn’t a nine. It was good, a seven even, but you had all this beautiful expectations who didn’t come true. So you are disappointed; you suffer.
Next week there is another party. One of a good friend who has asked you to come. You said ‘yes’, but you don’t feel like going. His party’s are always boring. The beer always runs out early and the music he’s playing is some stuff you can’t dance on. The whole week you try to find excuses to get out of it. It’s in your mind all the time. You rather go somewhere else. But whatever excuse you come up with, you know you have to go. If you rate it, you will give this party a three.
And again it’s party time. Biking over you decide to leave early. You just have to come up with a reason why. When you’re finally there, there is a dj playing. Playing your tunes. A whole new crowd seems to be there. People you haven’t seen before. Cool people. People who dance, who chat about all your favorite topics. You forget your excuse. You don’t even forget, you just don’t want to leave this place early. You suddenly see another side of your friend, another group of his friends. Cool friends.
When you come home, you’re laying in your bed. Happy. If you have to rate this party, it was a seven: a pretty good one. You fall asleep. Happily, while you have suffered all week, having this bad expectations whole week. All needles suffering.
This is actually really strange: sometimes we’re disappointed with a ‘seven’, sometimes we are happy with it. While it’s the same ‘seven’. It’s our mind doing that. Constantly. How often do you think about a meeting you have. Worrying about it, worrying about what people will say, what will be thrown at you? It’s good to prepare meetings, but doing it once is more than enough. But instead of that, we keep thinking about it; over and over again. And we don’t only think about it; we also suffer because of the thoughts we have about it. So the solution is simple: stop having expectations, stop having thoughts.
How? To become aware that you do have them. I once heard this research Harvard University has done. They found out that about 90 percent we think of today we already thought of the day before and the day before and the day before. The problem is: most people have negative thoughts: bringing themselves down. If we become aware of this; if we analyse our thoughts during meditation, but also during the day we can tell ourselves to stop; to stop having these thoughts; to focus on our breathing and just let go of it.
It’s hard training; it’s a lot of awareness, but if we do so, if we train ourselves – day in, day out – our mind will become calmer, our expectations will become less and less and that way we will slowly stop to suffer so much as we do now.