Is there an expectation in the mind right now that reading this will do something for one? Is there an expectation that something helpful may happen, maybe something that will resolve one’s problems? Instead, can there be awareness of the expectation? Is expectation blocking open awareness of what is going on right now, this very instant? It’s a simple question. Can we hold it a moment, looking carefully, feeling expectation actively engaging the mindbody?
Expectation is the idea of getting something, becoming something. Is there a feeling like that? It is not only mental; it is also physical. It is thought, a fantasy, a whole inner physical movement toward something at the same time away from something.
If I expect something to happen, can I be aware of how this idea affects the whole organism I call “me”? If I think something marvelous will happen, that expectation triggers tremendous energy throughout the body doesn’t it? I noticed as a child that anticipating my birthday party made me feel wonderfully happy for a long time. The party itself never quite measured up to the expectations—the day was over and gone so fast! Was I really there with what was actually happening, or was I just continuing the dream about a dream?
In the expectation of wonderful things to happen in the future, one doesn’t hear the sound of the wind, and rain, the breath and heartbeat this instant. Fantasy provides stimulation. Can we see that fantasy creates constant new stimulation that drowns out the lack of stimulation right now? And what is that?
Boredom? What one labels as “boredom,” one does not take the time or energy to experience directly. After all, everybody knows what boredom is. But do we really? What is it? What is boredom when the label is put aside? There are no sensations throughout the body. There may be a very flat, dull state and also a certain restlessness from wanting something else, wanting something else, something more exciting, a new and different stimulation. This is not just mental or verbal stuff: the whole body craves its accustomed “fix.” The process is like addiction and withdrawal—feeling deprived and wanting, wanting, wanting.
Is this what is actually going on? Can one quietly discover all these subtle movements in oneself? Can I, for this moment, just listen quietly?
We rarely touch this. We rarely contact this simple moment. So used to constant input and excitement, we lack fine-tuning into the subtleties of this instant, the ability to register a quiet aliveness without the stirring of expectation.
It’s simple to listen quietly, yet it’s not easy, because there is a tremendous momentum of habit to create stimulation through fantasy. This is particularly noticeable when we’re removed from our daily life during retreat, when we are without our accustomed morning-till-night stimulation—no excitement through the media, through relationships, work, noise, music, entertainment, movies..
To really be with the raw stuff of this moment doesn’t need identification or labeling. We don’t need to know it. Just being has nothing to do with expectation. It has nothing to do with a goal. Having a goal is already moving away. From what? What are we moving away from?
We think we can’t bear it—the boredom, the depression, the pain. We feel it’s too awful, too difficult. It’s not the “spiritual work” we imagine. But these are all thoughts, feeling, and labels. What is the real thing—this instant of not expecting anything?