Clarice Bryan is a recently retired psychology professor who lives in California with six cats and three pygmy goats. Although the author describes herself as a beginning Buddhist, don't let that fool you without much ado Bryan has written one of the most accessible and wise books ever about how to deal with that nefarious and pesky mind trip of expectations.
The following quotation by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, which Bryan uses to introduce one of the chapters of her book, sets the stage nicely for her exploration: "Usually, we don't undertake anything without having expectations about what it will be like, what it will do for us, what its value will be. Our expectations often get us where we need to be; but they also can seriously impede our ability to experience anything freshly because we insist on measuring it against those expectations. They create the most problems when we hold them rigidly and when they are unexamined or unconscious."
The book is divided into four sections: teachers, personal and professional relationships, cultural expectations, and beyond nothing. Bryan reveals how dangerous and depleting it is to have fixed ideas about relatives, friends, lovers, and strangers. Expectations also wreak havoc on our self-esteem; the more we allow cultural standards of beauty, wealth, and power to shape the way we feel about ourselves, the worse off we are. She revels in cats as animals that consistently defy expectations and teach us about the unpredictability of life.
The Zen approach to expectations is to live in the present moment, neither straining toward the past nor stretching out toward the future. It means giving up all those taxing strategies of controlling others or trying to mold ourselves to what the crowd thinks we should be. Read Expect Nothing and savor its non-grasping textures.