((Pre-post edit: I refrence the Zen Koan of Joshu in this post which I totally miss the boat on remembering correctly, but I’ve included it as originally typed because hey, it works still))
I feel like it’s common knowledge that the anticipation of an event often surpasses the event itself. A first date, getting blood drawn, a vacation or a long day at work. Though in those last two cases less than the first two. I think the reason for this is a compounding one. Those moments of acute living get firmly stamped on our psyche, and each time we re-experience them, we add to the emotional weight of the experience. I still hate getting blood drawn, but it’s never as bad as I expect it to be. When I was a child and had blood drawn, 4 people had to hold me still so the doctor could draw blood. The same effect would happen on Christmas Eve, long after I still felt excited on Christmas Morning. These are all, still, expectations. But the interesting thing to me about expectations, and perhaps the reason they keep coming to the forefront of my mind currently, is that these expectations force us to live in any time but the present.
Often we think about how good things WILL be, or how bad they WERE, but for all the time we spend ruminating on this, we more often find ourselves bored at our own inactivity. If we aren’t actively planning for some distraction, or spending our time numbing ourselves then what ARE we doing? When we sit alone at the beach, in our car, or wherever we are at our most holy and serene, too often our minds wander to reflections of the past or fantasies of the future.
I don’t know that this is bad, but neither is it living in the moment, and it makes me question if the quality of presentness is a fleeting and imaginary one. As I write this, I am seated cross legged on a long log extending over some bit of beach and then out into the Carribean Ocean. A few large ants are crawling on me, but I can’t feel their crawling because of the warm wind that is buffering me. Neither can I hear the sound of this pen scraping along the page, as the roar of the surf is drowning out everything else. For my writing, I am following the taoist principle of Wu-Wei and simply doing what seems right at each moment. I guess you can make that less transcendental and just call it “stream of consciousness” . I am dimly aware that my right foot is falling asleep and will need to be moved, and that sometime soon I will cease writing and more fully take in my surroundings. As I do this, I think of a story regarding a fundamental Buddhist principle I heard. One monk approached a Bodhisattva (or maybe it was the Buddah) and asked him, how he might find enlightenment. The older monk looked at the younger one for a long moment and gestured him closer. Once the monk moved closer the older monk shouted as loud as he could “MU!”. The word itself means “nothing”. I always took the meaning of this proverb that in the moment that the monk was being screamed at, “nothing” literally filled his mind. He was startled and frightened and immediately forced into the present for that harsh moment. The concept has shaped a good bit of my introspection. As the Tao teaches us to be like a child, perhaps we can combine these ideas, with the idea of managing our expectations.
We can expect nothing, know nothing and strive to do nothing. When we try to do nothing, those actions we take will be pure of purpose. When we know nothing, the world will be full of new discoveries to see with fresh and unjaded eyes. And when we expect nothing, we can allow each moment to wash over us, and realize that it is perfect, you are perfect, I am perfect and everything is as it should be.