What are expectations?
Our minds have a very hard time staying focused on the present, they are supreme comparing machine and the off button is located in such an inconvenient place that it can be seen as almost as a design fault. There certainly isn't an obvious red button to press in case of mental overload. They seem to be unable to just accept what is happening as it occurs and react accordingly, a lot of officer training in the military is about teaching people about that leadership detachment, the ability to see what is actually happening.
Left to its own devices, the mind will compare what is happening now with what has happened in the past. It looks for similarities and remembers how we acted the last time, and whether we want to change how we act this time, this cannot help but create expectations, it arises naturally. If we remember being happy last time that we drank, ate or even laughed, and somehow the experience is different this time, we cannot help but compare and decide whether it is better or worse, we have a difficult time just accepting something as different. We do not allow things to be themselves, something in its own right rather than marking it on a scale, judging it and sorting it into an order from good to bad.
Expectations become thoughts which can then generate feelings, that we then think about, a stirring mixture that becomes a perpetual motion machine of energy. In this case thought energy, we become trapped in the fear that something could be worse, they will not live up to those expectations and if they don't we can blame ourselves or others, adding in to the energetic churning of emotions, feelings and thoughts about those feelings. Which as we have already put energy into our expectations and fears, instead of concentrating on the moment, what we are doing and how we are acting, we are not being so we end up more likely to not be present and therefore have a bad time, where previously when we were just doing we had a good time.
When we dance without thinking, when we are just in the moment, listening, feeling the bass and moving with it, as part of a unthinking collective crowd. We are able to lose ourselves, not be self-conscious, however the moment the mind re-emerges, when it starts comparing, worrying, it trips itself over and become self-conscious, self-aware and separate from the sense of togetherness. It loses the sense of being in the moment and moves outside of now. It thinks of how you're looking, what others are thinking of you and you return to being an individual who is being judged as you begin to judge others again, your expectations re-emerge, you're someone who doesn't really dance again instead of part of the dance.
That is the danger of expectation, they have to be lived up to, if you do not exceeded those expectations, things are by definition worse, and as we know, it becomes harder and harder to exceed how much we enjoyed something last time, and especially every time. Every marginal gain becomes harder to acquire, when we learn a new skill or talent, our progress, often has a period of rapid improvement where it becomes easier, but a plateau always follows, where we have to invest more for smaller returns on our skills. That is why we can become competent in something in a thousand hours, an expert in five thousand and a master in ten thousand, despite the fact that to a beginner the difference in skill levels may seem marginal at best.
However if we followed our raw expectations, we might decide that it just isn't worth the extra time to improve beyond being competent, there is the wall of frustration that comes from trying to reach up to the higher levels. In some cases, competent might be good enough, there is nothing wrong with just being competent cook instead of a master chef, if we only want to cook for our family and ourselves. What is important is the focus on what you want to get back, instead of your expectations that insists you must improve every time you do so, it must be better, when instead if you control your expectations, and say it is fine to have a meal that is roughly as good as the last one, and be grateful for that. If you are able to concentrate and be aware of what is good, rather than chase after something that is better, that is closer to perfect than you are now, that is the act of dropping your expectation and being present with what is actually happening now, in the moment.
That is welcoming a familiar friend without the expectation of something new and exciting. It is changing towards a depth of experience rather than the excitement of the different, it is when you choose to become a master, to become aware of the subtlety of the familiar. You can only be bored when you are not aware, sitting with your eyes close with just your breath and heartbeat for company should according to our expectations be the worst experience you could undergo. There is nothing new in a breath, and heartbeats repeats for every second of our lives, is the most familiar aspect of our entire existence, and yet it can completely hold your attention, so much so you can lose your sense of self, time and even space, it can absorb your whole awareness. That is if you are able to drop any expectations, meditation shows you the trap of expectations more clearly than any other activity can do, as the moment you allow them in, is the moment when you lose your awareness. And perhaps the only expectation that never disappoints is our ability to keep on growing as being of consciousness.