It started with a thought that I needed to take cash out the following morning. I turned over in bed, simultaneously remembering I needed to transfer money from savings to cover rent. Another toss and a pillow adjustment, later: “what about retirement and my lack of savings skills?” Yet another twist, toss, and turn. The night was quickly evolving into what most Americans experience before falling asleep. I found myself stuck in a catastrophic thought hurricane of plotting and debunking financial schemes to pay for graduate school, rent and two unruly pups. Panic had ensued. Worry hijacked my thoughts.
In that same moment of worrying about paying for the never-ending bill of life, Hank, my foster-fail, goof-ball, hound mix jumped up on my bed and quite literally slapped me across the face. He has a tendency to do this when he wants something. A straight paw to the face. He wanted a belly rub, and I needed a wake up call. He flopped over in his goofy gumby way onto his back and licked my hand. Then Grizzly, my other pup hopped up and hunkered down for snuggles. Before I knew it, in the midst of laughing and canoodling with them, the financial worry thought clouds had floated away. The truth of that moment held perfection. I was in a cozy home, I was fed and showered, I had an abundance of love from my dogs, and I was safe.
Life is a constant stream of moments and experiences. The goal is to make as many of those great. If I let worry about months to come hijack the moment, it no longer is good. And how presumptuous of me to assume that I even have those future experiences coming my way. Life isn’t a guarantee. We aren’t promised a tomorrow, albeit most of the time it comes. Certainly we need to plan for it, but we don’t need to let it dictate our presence.
Suddenly Hank the hound, in his Hank way, jumped up and snarled at Grizzly. Someone had touched one of his trigger points, sending him off into his doggy PTSD reaction, breaking us out of our reverie of that perfect moment. But a few moments later, everything settled back down and peace reclaimed the moment.
I think the truth of enlightenment is to be able to sit the roller coaster: the good and the bad as ebbs and flows, moment to moment. Meditation helps, but even more than that, it’s taking the practice into daily life and riding the roller coaster of good and bad experiences, not letting the future or past trample on your present.
There are so many ways in our life that we miss out on the truth of enlightenment, and box our experiences in. Take love, for example, after all every human’s deepest desire is for love. If we are so concerned about whether a partner is going to leave us, or what we did wrong in a previous relationship, we miss out on the love that is already all around us. If we are looking for love in a label or a text message or in a bouquet of flowers, we very likely might live a loveless life. But if we can see Love in the wave of warmth that comes from a friendly smile at the coffee shop, from a meaningful conversation with a friend, from a puppy’s slobbery kiss, from shared laughter over an inside joke–well, now we might be onto something. Love is everywhere and anywhere, but it is always present.
The secret to enlightenment in my opinion is appallingly simple. I think that’s probably why so many people don’t get it…it seems too good to be true. Be. Here. Now. As the mystics have said all alone, Heaven is nowhere…Now Here. So here’s what I choose. I choose to stay here, moment to moment, taking the good and the bad. After all, the lotus can only grow in the mud.