While petting Rosie – a Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix - I found myself wondering how she felt her life was going. As if she could think in terms of her birth, living and death. I realized it was a projection – something we do to dogs all the time – because, of course, she doesn’t conceptualize her life like that. There’s probably no conceptualization at all.
But then I thought of my own life and how I conceptualize my life in terms of how it is going, what it’s like now and where it might and should go. But seeing the mistaken application of the idea of “leading a life” to Rosie I thought that that way of conceiving of this existence is optional. Perhaps tribal people don’t formulate their lives in terms of whether they’re accomplishing their goals and whether their goals are good ones to be trying to accomplish (but perhaps they do). Certainly a Buddhist practice, through a sustained immersion in the present moment and the gradual withering away of concern with the self, can cultivate a life lived less fixated upon “how my life’s going.”
Of course any conceptualization can be made to seem optional, but there’s still a shock when a conceptualization of life one hasn’t yet made optional is seen as optional. What’s been taken for granted as reality, the unquestioned backdrop for living, becomes one of many possibilities and so potentially revisable.
What to do with this insight? It’s not as if you can alter you’re way of being just like that. It requires a lot of sustained effort and the motivation to do it. Otherwise, it’s just an intriguing possibility to be entertained for a few moments until the attention shifts, the mood changes, a different view of existence appears and a different experiential world arises and becomes, for a short time, the way things are.