Other Ways of Being

January 5, 2018

In his first chapter in The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo writes that we should be grateful for our human life because we could have been born a plant or an animal or even mineral. That is true; indeed, some traditions believe we have lived millions of lives, accruing the positive karma necessary to live even a single human life. Despite that gratitude and awe for my life, I sometimes I look at plants, animals, the wind, the rain, and the trees, and I marvel at the fact that they do not ask themselves, who am I and why am I here? It is not that they are devoid of consciousness; rather, they have a different consciousness, and a different way of being in the world. My cat Lily feels lonely, and feels love, she gets hungry and sleepy, and she feels pain when her brother bullies her. But throughout it all, Lily is just . . . Lily. The way she meows, purrs, and grooms herself are uniquely hers, but she in no way frets over them. Does the rain ask itself why it’s wet or falling? Does the wind ask if it’s moving too quickly? They do not. Nor does the wind wonder why the rain is falling so heavily, nor do birds say that they wish that the wind would slow down. There is a peaceful abiding in nature that so often escapes us human beings, who seem so plagued by the very question of their existence and role in the world. That may be one reason that humans find such peace when they spend time in nature, for they are surrounded by ways of being that do not question themselves. And so while we might regard ourselves as unique and special, and be filled with gratitude for this life, I am constantly reminded that plants, animals, and the elements are in so many ways far more enlightened than all of us. Theirs is the consciousness that says, I am what I am, and that is all that I am, and that is all I need to be.


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