As I was reading through the blogs I follow on Google Reader, I was struck by many random thoughts. First, there was a blog post from a Zen practitioner who really found fault with books which are meant to be beginner's guides to Zen. I am really unfamiliar with the depths of Zen, and I certainly wouldn't begin to fault his arguments, but one thing he said did strike a chord and I'm not going to quote it because I'm not sure I really comprehended the depths of his argument, but it got me thinking along certain lines, and I think that is good in its own right. So I'm just taking something out of context which jumpstarted my brain in a different direction.
Apparently one of these beginner guides talked about dogs and how they are content without worrying as long as they get their basic needs met and find love and affection. As a real animal lover, not to mention a person who worries a lot, I have realized more and more (thanks to the help of my wonderful therapist), that in fact animals have a great deal to teach us if only we will listen! I'm not sure if it is Zen that they are teaching, as I have no knowledge on that topic, but from what I've been able to glimpse of the concept of Mindfulness, I think our animal companions have a great deal to teach us about staying fully present in the moment.
I was lying in bed this morning, debating the wisdom of getting up, with both Thackeray and Laoise on top of me for their morning scratching and loving ritual, when Thackeray started chattering in the way only cats can (or at least I've only heard cats making this sound) as he watched a flock of birds darting from tree to tree in the front yard. And thanks to his alert attention, I also got glimpses of these lovely birds. Thackeray was perfectly present and enjoying the moment. Poosa, one of my Cocker Spaniels, does the same, charting her course around the yard, not even thinking about the cold, but going from one wonderful scent to another, or chasing after a squirrel or bird (which she could thankfully never catch). Chauncey, my other Cocker Spaniel, spends much of his time now at the advanced age of 12+ sleeping in the most comfortable spot he can find, which now seems to be on top of my sewing table on a purple yoga cushion I've given over to the dogs, so he can also watch out the front window, ever ready to challenge anyone who arrives, especially if they are UPS or FedEx. Sasha, bless her heart, is still exploring all the new areas uncovered by my remodel, and every time I walk within say 15 feet of her, she feels very comfortable making her needs known, getting some loving, having me dish a bit more of her special wet cat food, just soaking up the love. And Laoise is ever vigilant for that wet cat food, if Sasha deigns to leave any behind, although Laoise is learning the drill that Sasha gets first dibs.
None of these fine friends stays awake at night wondering how to live, or how to justify their existence, or what the meaning of life is. They are simply too busy living life to the fullest to worry about what the meaning is. They are ever present in each and every moment of the day and they live life absolutely and completely right up to their last breath. I could hardly wish for finer examples of what it means to live than that provided by my wonderful animal companions. While I do not make New Year's Resolutions as such, at the start of this year, I think I can commit to trying to follow their example in each and every moment of my life, to treasure each moment and to stay fully present.