Often, when we hear the phrase no expectations, we think of being resigned or defeated, hopeless or even despairing. But if we are truly free of expectations, there is another possibility: we might inhabit an open space, aware and receptive, willing to experience what life offers us in each moment.
In Buddhist teaching, this openness to what is happening with close attention is the precursor to a state of joy or piti. It is the opposite of boredom, which is a refusal to be present and aware out of a judgment that what is going on is insufficient and uninteresting. But the experience of joy means to find what is inherently interesting in everything, even if it isn’t exactly what we were hoping for.
This has a special meaning in the context of relationships. We all have expectations of people, and we all feel our expectations are perfectly reasonable ones. Sometimes we don’t even know we have expectations until we experience them as being thwarted. When that happens, since our expectations seem so reasonable to ourselves, anger and resentment follow.
Perhaps it isn’t possible to be completely free of expectations. But each step we take toward being free of expectations leaves us open and aware and joyful, able to appreciate the other person without burdening them with what we want them to be. Every expectation we have of others is a resentment waiting to happen.