The secret of appreciation

Wherever we go, whatever we do, our brain works ceaselessly and produces thoughts. Our brain assumes, plans and compares in order to prepare us for what is going to happen. It might be that this behavior is originally created by our brain to protect us from the many unforeseen events and from dangers that we could potentially have anticipated. However, the emotional effect of this can be extremely diverse.

I used to be a person that had many expectations about everything. I used to have precise expectations of how things should be, how I should be, how a place should be and how I should act and react in any possible situation. As a result of this way of being, I realized that I got disappointed so often, sometimes even frustrated in the end. Expectations created by our mind as a result of a comparison with the past. In turn, this leads to emotions in our hearts. However, as much as it is built on the past, it has nothing to do with the future, it is not the reality of today. Accordingly, having expectations can be heart-breaking.

Last month, I went on to another journey in my live. A three weeks’ trip should take me to Bali and Vietnam this time. Whilst I travelled to Bali, the place I love so much, many times before, Vietnam was going to be a completely unfamiliar place to me. In preparation for this adventure, I could have built up my expectations based on other places I had seen before or on feelings I had when I visited other places for the first time. I could have built a vision of what I was going to explore based on pictures, brochures and travel reports from other tourists. However, is there any chance that this vision was going to be any close to the reality I will personally face?

Many years ago I used to work in a travel agency. My job was to plan everything to the detail for my customers and to create a vision for them. As a consequence, this is also how I often planned my own trips. But this time I was going to be a backpacker. I was going to be one of those tourists that does not exactly know what the destination of tomorrow’s journey will be. As this triggered a feeling of uncertainty and nervousness in me, I realized I will have to take a decision. And I set an intention for my journey:

The intention to explore with no expectations.

Instead of trying to imagine how nicely the sun will shine, how beautiful the sandy beaches will be and whether the yoga classes will be great or not, I tried to forget about any expectations. At least this way, I could not be disappointed on a rainy day, by a rocky beach or an unexpected yoga class, right?

My personal experiment forced me to try and simply enjoy any impressions I received and to appreciate every moment just as it was. With an open mindset. I tried to ingest whatever the moment offered. And I tried not to judge things as good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or horrible, at least not right away.

With this experience I finally ended up finding beauty and happiness everywhere and anytime. Everything suddenly became so interesting... I appreciated things that I might otherwise not even have notice. And I just felt peace and joy.

Retrospectively, it seems unbelievable how simple it is. The only thing it requires is some discipline to remind yourself to be open-minded over and over again. As soon as you notice that you are about to create a story in your mind you will have to let it go again. As soon as you find yourself comparing or judging, just let that thought clear away. It won't make you any happier. Just wait till the future becomes present - Expect nothing and appreciate everything.

Peace begins where expectations end.