Expect-bloody-tation

Sorry, I mean, expectation. At the beginning of each yoga nidrā class, I ask for all expectations to be removed. It's not just said to give you something to do. Quite the opposite in fact. Expectation may be seen as a form of doing! It's a subject that has come up a few times this week so some words feel necessary around expectation. It's a big topic so let's try and keep it brief so that your own realisations can be reached.


In yoga it could be said that we are learning (or rather unlearning) to see the true nature of everything, not just ourselves (although we may realise this is actually the same thing). One such block to seeing things as they really are can be expectation. In vedantic teachings it is part of a sheath or kośa of illusion which we identify as- vijñānamāyā kośa- and covers our true nature. So what occurs with expectation?


Firstly, as soon as we are forming any expectation we are cognising, or thinking. This means that the current 'now' is already lost. We have moved away from being the witnesser and have become the thinker. Expectation is a projection of the mind towards the future, so we are no longer truly present to the present. This expectation isn't just masking what we are expecting. It is also masking the true nature of the present. [It is of course a little more complex than that as the expectation/cognition is also part of the experience of the present, which we will come to later]


The expectation is also going to colour the thing that we are expectant of. How? By giving it something to compare to. Think of when you've had high expectations, only to be disappointed. Or maybe you learnt some lesson to set expectations low so that you were always pleasantly surprised. Both of these are colouring the real nature of things.

Let's look at it another way. You may have seen these types of 'illusions' before, but you can still see that A and B look like different shades of grey, when it truth they are the same.

You can see that the view of the grey is dependent on what it is next to, or contrasted against. This is the same that occurs with expectation. It is changing the view of the event or thing we are expectant of and therefore it no longer becomes the truth.


The imprint of expectation can also mean we look out for things that match our expectation. Say I expect someone to be nasty to me, I am going to look out for every tiny thing which matches my expectation in order to prove myself right...as we bloody love being right about things. So again, it is discolouring the reality.


Expectation doesn't really seem like our friend does it? Well as mentioned earlier, it is often part of our experience. It is our identification with the expectation, or more accurately our general identification with mind/thought/vijñānamāyā kośa which is tarnishing experience. But this is not us.


'Think about' how our thoughts are not our own. If you want to prove to me that your thoughts are your own, only think about unicorns and glitter for the next two weeks, and absolutely nothing else. You can't. If our thoughts were our own, why would we choose to have a negative thought? It seems idiotic doesn't it? Yet we can really believe our thoughts are our own. The notion that they're not our own may take a little time to settle, but can radically alter how we view everything.


Knowing that our thoughts are not our own means that we can observe them and maybe try to gauge what is being taught by the thought. Often the teachings are not in the exact thought, but the emotion carried by them. We don't want to simply block expectation, as it will more than likely rise up more and more in our lives. We want to observe and not attach to it. Perhaps we are just being given the expectations to eventually learn not to attach to the mind and thoughts that arise. It really can be that simple, yet overcomplicating often seems more fun- a lesson in itself.


If we allow expectations to just hover in the background of our experience, in time they may fade. If we apply this to all cognition we begin to experience things a lot more as they are- neutral. Everything just is. Only cognition creates the binary of good/bad etc. What we find is that experience (life) starts to just flow through us without leaving an imprint. As soon as thought arises it is leaving an impression of some description on us. You have probably experienced this in for example rumination- a deep thought about something, usually in the past. This has been evidenced to be a cause of depression- an impression left by cognition. As a 'thinker' this has been an incredibly tough lesson to learn. When we become and rest as the observer it can slowly be easier and easier to just allow the thought to enter and leave. In time those thoughts become less as they are no longer given our attention, and we learn to identify with the 'observer' more than the 'thinker'.


And our yoga nidrā practice may become what we need in that moment, instead of what we think.