Ahh… Friday afternoon! I found myself lying on a chaise lounge on the patio, basking in the warmth of filtered afternoon sunlight and relishing the scent mixture of cherry blossoms and the warming waters of Lake Superior. Delicious sensory input! Eyeing the stained-glass colors of tulip flowers bobbing in the sunshine, I reached for the camera and snapped a couple of pictures before the camera protested: “Memory full.”
Momentary disappointment led to inspiration, and I roused myself, marching indoors toward our computer, with the intention to download a month’s worth of photos. The first photos off the disk, dated April 30th, stunned me. In sharp contrast to the spring-like beauty of this afternoon, I faced snow and ice on the Bay instead, the only color coming from a blooming sunrise. Nature’s transformations are nothing short of amazing! From winter evolves spring blooms summer comes autumn drops winter and around and around and around. Each year the same, but also a little bit different.
All of nature is like this. All of life. Constantly and continually everything ebbs and flows and morphs. Even when something is “the same as last time,” it is also at least a little bit different. We are part of nature, we are part of everything — obviously, of course. But then, why should it be so surprising to us when people change or when circumstances defy our wishes? Why are we angered when friends change their minds, or in denial when someone dies? Why are we surprised that our hair turns gray, that our children grow up, that our spouse disagrees? Or for that matter, why be disappointed when my camera disk is full?
The human mind is sculpted by experiences and by thoughts. The unconscious shaping of the mind (implicit memory) “includes your expectations, models of relationships, emotional tendencies, and general outlook. Implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind — what it feels like to be you — based on the slowly accumulating residues of lived experience.” (Buddha’s Brain, p.67). Most of the time, when I push the shutter button on the camera, it snaps a photo. But occasionally, for one reason or another, it does not. It is telling that even such a small thing can unsettle the mind. Much of the time, our unrealistic expectations help us make our way through life efficiently, until we get too comfortable with them!
That’s when it’s time to deliberately shake up the mind by rejoicing in the differences between the past and the present moment. Deliberate appreciation that the present moment is not the same as what we expected it to be — or that it is at the very least not the same as a past moment — is one more step toward mindful self-awareness! Vive la différence!