An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
Folk wisdom asks if the glass is half-empty or half-full. The optimist sees it as half-full, focusing on the positive; the pessimist sees it as half-empty, focusing on the negative. Yet, if you really think about it, the glass is always full — full of water and air.
The perspective of air and water shifts the context and opens us to a broader reality. Mindfulness helps us to see things as they are — to see beyond our preconceptions and to get beyond notions like optimism and pessimism.
The glass example highlights how we actively construct our experience by how we pay attention to it. What does it mean to go beyond optimism-pessimism? For one, it invites us to go beyond the storyline, to go beyond liking and disliking to experiencing with interest, curiosity, perhaps even fascination.
This is a more de-constructed view of the world; fresh and unsullied by prior learning, not beholden to theories, expectations, and desire.
As you move through the rest of your day, pay attention to all of the times when your mind expresses a preference for things to be other than they are in the moment. I am sitting outside and there are bugs flying about. Some of them are deer flies and they can be quite nasty. My storytelling mind says, “This would be perfect if the deer flies weren’t here.” Yet, they are here. And so the challenge is to be mindful of them. This is not to say I just offer myself to their flesh ripping avocation, but I’ll include them in the landscape of now.
There are many more such narratives, “if only …” scenarios. And bliss always resides in what is here right now. And I can taste this bliss if I stop pushing and pulling against reality — the reality of my senses and the reality of my subjectivity. Bliss waits for the cessation of storytelling; bliss awaits the deconstruction of my storied self into the experience of now. The sun feels warm, the breeze delightful. I live in an envelope of sound and music. Sweat beads on my forehead, and so on.
It is the ordinary unfolding of now. Just as the glass is always full of something, our moments are full of experiences that can be met as they are. And when we can meet them in this way, resistance yields to acceptance and opens up a space that’s better than being an optimist. Just being.