Among those people who call themselves spiritual, there are many different ideas spread about how you should live your life. Of course, they are all positive points, telling you to love those around you, to be aware of who you are and what you want, to expect less in order to avoid disappointment and to control your ego. While it is a general tendency that the west imports such ideas from Eastern philosophies, trying to implement them in their lives, I believe that one needs to take a difference of culture into account as well. There are just certain things which may fit perfectly into an Eastern culture such as the Indian one but are so foreign to your Western culture that you would make yourself unhappy trying to fit into it.
Let’s take the example of expectations. It is a commonly known goal of spiritually interested people to reduce or even remove their expectations. I have always written and explained that there is actually no reason to try and fully remove your expectations. There should be some of them and there will be if you want to live a normal life with people like family and friends around you. So let’s just talk about the idea that you should drastically reduce your expectations to a minimum.
I believe that this is a valid point that can make you happier because you will not face that much disappointment. I also believe however that you should not try and force yourself not to have any expectations – and also not feel guilty if you have a certain amount of expectations that you cannot get rid of. And that amount depends on your cultural background!
If you look at a person who grows up in an Indian environment, he will not have the tendency to as many expectations as a person growing up in most western countries would. People don’t expect each other to be very punctual here. People don’t expect work to be done within the time frame that was fixed before. People don’t expect a task to be finished precisely and perfectly. A normal, regular Indian person already is used to adjustments, compromises and imperfection. There is already less disappointment, there is already less expectation.
If you have, in your daily life, moved away from unreasonable expectations, you have already done a big step! If you are now worried about the fact that you still expect your loved one to appear at the restaurant at the time that you have agreed upon, I think there is nothing wrong! It is the culture that you grew up with and that is something so deeply rooted inside that you may not ever get that out.
What I am trying to say is that you should not think ‘Whenever I have an expectation, I did something wrong!’ Don’t mentally beat yourself up for the fact that you have expectations just because people of another country have an easier time letting go. Your culture is different, your identity is different.
Accept who you are and don’t try to change what doesn’t actually need to be changed. There are things that can just be alright as they are – even if others don’t think so.