Expect Nothing, Accept Everything…and Show Up

One of the recent phrases of wisdom I've been attempting to follow is this:

Expect nothing, accept everything.  To which I add: and show up. Opening-open-closed-28753-l

I'm not sure where the original quote came from.  I heard it at church.  It resonates with me because it has taken me a long time to grasp the "expect nothing" part of it, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.  Because, if we want something, aren't we supposed to visualize it?  And isn't that a form of expecting?  But now you're telling me not to expect anything after all.  And how am I supposed to think about my goals if I'm to expect nothing?  Isn't having goals expecting something? Sigh.  This stuff is confusing as all hell.

But here's what I've figured out: the trick is to just go out there and do the work–show up–and then accept what happens.  Without expectation.   It's a subtle tweak, doing the work without expectation.  Because most of the time what motivates us to take action is expectation.  Expectation that we'll get money, or success, or fame, or whatever.

But expectation can also drive what we want away.  Have you ever wanted something so bad that you felt all screwed up and twisted inside?  Its that kind of expectation that actually blocks the flow. Sometimes this happens with visualization, too.  The trick with that is to visualize your goal, and then release it to the universe to make it happen as it will.

Which is where acceptance comes in.  We think that we know just how things will turn out.  We certainly know how we want them to turn out.  And we also like to think we're in control.  Ha! But so often, things don't turn out like we planned.  Sometimes, they turn out better.  Sometimes we think they turn out worse but later we realize that is not the case.  So accepting what comes is very important.

But probably most important is taking action. If we fail to master the showing up part, then we languish.  We visualize our goals and wonder why nothing is happening.  Um, could it be because we've forgotten the showing up part?  I'm pretty sure this is where much of the sneering at New Age ideas comes in.  There's been an enormous backlash and misunderstanding about the movie The Secret, for instance.  Because people missed the taking action part. 

My understanding of all this is still a work in progress, so I'm happy to hear any clarifications, or differences of opinion, or amplifications.  Comments are encouraged!

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8 Comments on "Expect Nothing, Accept Everything…and Show Up"

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David Paine
Guest
03/16/2011 07:14

Doing, expectation and acceptance – such a tricky combination. Interdependent really, yet difficult to combine effectively – the expectation part especially in my case. It’s the sort of Christo-Buddhist (Buddho-Christian? Uhhh …) thing I’m trying to put into practice – or maybe it’s to be conscious of – in all areas of my life Yet can one really separate things?

Your cogent exposition (How’s that for semi-archaic usage?) is as clear as anything I’ve read on this in a quite while. Which points to why you are the Wordstrumpet and I’m a follower.

Love always –

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
03/16/2011 09:17
Ah, thank you, David! That’s a great compliment coming from you, a fellow spiritual seeker and writer. I agree, it is one of the most difficult challenges we face. I suppose in a way it is impossible to separate expectation and doing and acceptance. Because one could make the argument that if we truly had no expectations then we wouldn’t do anything. But since to exist on this planet we have to do something, it almost becomes doing it for the sake of doing it. Which leads to the idea of being present with whatever we’re doing. Another difficult thing… Read more »
Patrick Ross
Guest
03/16/2011 09:28

Great wisdom, great post. On a personal note, I always find it hard to “show up” these first few days after the clock changes and the powers that be take away my early morning sunshine!

louise
Guest
03/16/2011 09:33

Fellow crusader dropping in to say hi. Am I the only one still making her rounds?
Wonderful post. It’s made me think, but accept everything? Is that wise?

David Paine
Guest
03/16/2011 13:26
Accept everything. Yes. Speaking only for myself here – acceptance is not o passivity, but about refusing to fight what is. Rather than fighting, I try (notice I said “try”) to accept reality and work with it. I move to change the things I don’t like, and deal gracefully with the things I can’t change. Speaking in simplistic terms (my native territory) … Living in Nashvegas, one the hottest places on the face of God’s earth – trust me – I tend to get cranky about the heat on or before August 15. But what’s the good of complaining about… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
03/17/2011 09:25
Patrick, I hear you about the time change. Sunday night I tossed and turned all night! Louise, I’ve noticed a fall-off in the crusader visits also, and I have to admit I’ve not been as good about it either. Going to try to catch up this weekend. I think the acceptance thing is subtle and David in the next comment explains it well. Its about not fighting and resisting what is. Because then that creates space for something different. Byron Katie talks about this in her book “Loving What Is.” David, Great example and so well put. I know that… Read more »
Roma Arellano (aka ybonesy)
Guest

I love what you added. It’s a mantra to live by. And for me, because I can waste too much time on social networking media (Twitter is my current obsession), I have to remind myself that showing up is about producing and not just watching others produce.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
03/19/2011 10:23

Roma, Thanks. And I share your obsession with Twitter. Love what you said about our social media habit–our lives should be about producing and not watching others do it. That makes us into shadow artists.

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