I'm back to the original question that spawned this blog: Will I, or wont I, ever have a baby? I'm back to that familiar tension between two fears, one: waiting too long for the right time, finding that the opportunity has passed me by, and two: taking the plunge too soon into water too deep.
On my run yesterday I thought about a story Thich Nhat Hanh relates, of the Buddha sitting in the woods with a group of monks. A distraught farmer happens by, in search of his missing cows. "I am the most miserable person on Earth," the farmer says. After the farmer leaves, the Buddha turns to the monks with a smile, saying, "Dear friends, do you know that you are the happiest people on Earth? You have no cows to lose."
Hanh says we should cultivate the art of releasing our cows by looking deeply at the things in life that we are unable to leave behind, things that we may feel are vital to our happiness and survival. These things, in reality, may be traps, obstacles to our truest happiness, because they cause us to suffer.
As I ran yesterday, I worried that a baby could be a trap for me. I certainly wouldn't be able to release that cow. Or perhaps my reluctance itself is the cow, my fear that I would not be able to figure out how to take good care of myself or be part of the larger world, to feel excited and fulfilled while changing diapers and folding laundry.
Worrying over the future rather than enjoying my present, the record-long run I was in the midst of, seemed a trap in its own right.
Running has not, traditionaly, been my thing. I never saw myself as someone who was capable of much in that regard. I remember how triumphant I felt at twenty, when I first ran one single mile without stopping, and here I was at thirty-six, running more than six. Talk about inflexible vision! I considered the possibility that I might run as many as eight miles in the not too distant future. I don't know if I'll ever do it, and in a way, I don't care. Just the thought made me happy.
Then it occurred to me: perhaps I've become too attached to the traditional white picket fence vision of happiness and fulfillment, in which, if I embrace parenthood, I must confine my life's focus to domesticity, or if parenthood doesn't pan out for me, that I must therefore be unhappy. Perhaps that is the cow, that inflexible vision of my own limitations.
This morning I opened Thich Nhat Hanh'sEssential Writings to the story of the Buddha and the cows, and read again, and finally understood the following:
"The key thing is to let go and free yourself..." Hanh says. "Each of us is caught in an idea of happiness. We believe we will be truly happy when certain conditions are fulfilled. We don't realize that this idea is an obstacle to our true happiness. If we can release our idea of happiness, true happiness is born in us right away."
I felt happy reading this.
Good bye cows.