One thing I am really learning about and working on is to get rid of expectations. Taking in the sunsets when I can has really got me contemplating this idea. I have realized that often expectations rob us of the joy of the moment. This isn’t to be confused with anticipation which can be exciting in its own right. Expectations on the other hand give us a preconceived notion of how we would like thing to work out, or believe things will work out. So if I have the expectation that something is going to be exceptional and it turns out to be wonderful in a different way I may still enjoy the occurrence. The trouble lies later when I go to analyze the difference between what I expected to happen and what actually occurred. No matter how good the actual experience or event was I will measure it against, and compare it to, my expectations. That in itself takes some of the magic and enjoyment out of the experience. Whereas if I don’t form any expectation of an event and just live it organically I will experience the joy in the moment. Therefore, if the experience is wonderful then I will partake in its wonder, if it is exceptional I will cherish the exception. If I don’t go in with a preconceived outcome I can just take it for what it is.
I think one of the most wonderful and amazing aspects of life is sharing our lives with animals. Personally one of the greatest joys in my life is my cats. I have a deep love and compassion for all animals. They are these amazing creatures so full of devotion. It is an incomparable feeling to come home to their love and greeting. Their personalities and idiosyncrasies are all so unique and so wonderful to discover and nurture. I have been fortunate to have animals in my life as long as I can remember, whether cats, dogs, horses, birds or even our neighbour’s pet duck. I love them all and if I owned property I would have some kind of menagerie for sure, though it would be of domestic animals. These wonderful creatures become part of our family. They are the true embodiment of zen. Animals aren’t trying to be anything but themselves. They bring such joy and comfort to our lives and only ask for us to care for them and love them.
People who love and have animals are extremely compassionate people. I think you can tell a lot about a person’s character on how they interact with animals. It carries over on to how they treat others as well. I spent a few years without an animal in my life when I first moved back home, but I cannot imagine ever having that void again. One of the biggest reasons I am vegetarian is due to the way that they treat animals in today’s factory farms. I am not against people eating meat as far as it goes. I can’t abide by the way they inhumanely treat animals in many of today’s factory operations throughout the food chain. That is just my personal choice. If I were to choose to eat meat again it would only be from sources where I knew they were raised and treated humanely. I don’t see it happening though; I’m quite comfortable eating veggies and sustainable fisheries.
Another book I have encountered lately that has had a huge influence on my life is “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. This book has completely changed my life and has put me on a completely different path for my life. It came to me right at the exact moment I was ready for it. My life had kind of been going in that direction naturally or at least so it seemed. Though I should state I have no desire to identify as Buddhist per se. I am just apt to borrow from any philosophies, religions, writings and even fiction to add to my life philosophy. As to where the book came from that’s a story for another day. It was one of the greatest gifts and influences on my life thus far.
One of the hugest lessons I have learned from this book is to ensure you are just being yourself at every moment. If you can do this you will be your best, although there is always room for improvement.
“Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.”
― Shunryu Suzuki
There are times in life where we all have issues or circumstances that weigh on us heavily. Sometimes it is not even that, instead our brains just lead us to believe that what we are thinking about is a bigger deal than it really is. Now when ever I feel even a little anxious or some anxiety coming on I have a sure fire cure. I go for a walk and it works every time. Walking for me is like meditation is for some, it eventually brings me to a very peaceful, blissful and creative state.
While I am walking there are several things I do My first step is to think about what is on my mind; where the anxiety is stemming from. In this part of the walk I just let my mind wander and then I let my imagination concoct any crazy story it wants. Then I look at the story and begin to discard those fanciful ideas, because I know they are just stories my mind has invented. I let them go. No matter how outlandish the idea or story I concoct I let it enter my consciousness and then I determine if it has any thread of reality or validity in it. If it doesn’t I either just let it go or I examine it further and break it into pieces that are small enough that I can let them go. So far it works every time for me.
Then my mind goes very calm, and I either notice my breathing or my footsteps and put myself into a peaceful state. Conversely I notice the sound of the waves or just look out over the mountains. After this my mind goes to much more pleasurable places. I think about those things that i enjoy and am thankful for. That makes me feel so much lighter. This gives me beginner’s mind because then I feel like there are endless possibilities and I keep my eyes and ears open to my world. This also allows me to accept those things I don’t necessarily like or agree with as they are. Some of the situations I can do something about, and yet others are outside of my control. I let go those outside of my control and decide how I should handle those I have some influence over. At the very least I decide what my reaction to the situation will be, I don’t leave it up to my “small” mind.