I love this:
A guy sees a sign in front of a house: “Talking Dog for Sale.” He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes into the backyard and sees a black mutt just sitting there.
“You talk?” he asks.
“Yep,” the mutt replies.
“So, what’s your story?”
The mutt looks up and says, “Well, I discovered my gift of talking pretty young and I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies eight years running. The jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger and I wanted to settle down. So I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings there and was awarded a batch of medals. Had a wife, a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.”
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog. The owner says, “Ten dollars.”
The guy says, “This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?”
The owner replies, “He’s just a big liar. He didn’t do any of that stuff.”
Talk about missing the point!
I got a fortune in a Chinese restaurant a couple of years ago that said essentially the same thing: “Stop searching forever. Happiness is just next to you.” I have it taped to my desk, because I have trouble remembering that. Sometimes you just can’t see what’s right in front of you (or next to you). Happiness is just as difficult to find sometimes as a talking dog. Not because it’s not there, but because we don’t recognize it for what it is, or because we’re not looking in the right place.
Sometimes we don’t realize we’re happy until we’re unhappy. The Buddha taught that it is not things or events that make us unhappy; it is our attachment to things and events that causes us always to be dissatisfied. It appears that it is not human nature to simply be present fully in the moment and experience life directly.
Most often I suffer the same problem as the dog owner in the joke: my expectations get in the way. Things don’t come to me in the form I expect or think I want, so I don’t recognize an opportunity for what it is. By the time I understand, it’s long gone. Then I regret my mistake, I get attached to “what could have been,” and I’m unhappy.
It’s very hard not to expect things to be a certain way. It is our nature to want to understand our world. The human brain is wired to fill in gaps, to make patterns, and to find meaning in what the senses perceive. We spend years in school learning about “absolutes” in the world; laws of nature and physics that cannot be broken. Things we can expect to always be the same. 2 x 2 is and always will be 4.
If we couldn’t expect some things to be the same at least most of the time, we would be under constant stress. Expectation makes us feel safe; gives us a feeling of security that we know where things fit in – where we as individuals fit in. The world would be way too scary if nothing had any meaning; if we approached each moment as if it were our first.
In human history it has been to our advantage to exchange spontaneity for constancy; wonder for safety, variety for control. However, that exchange has brought us and our planet to the brink of destruction. That way of thinking,was useful for a long time, but it is not useful now. If we aren’t willing to be surprised we miss joy, we miss beauty, we miss love. We miss life.
Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Nothing less than a rebellion against brain chemistry is required. No small thing. At some point each of us has to make a choice: do I go on trying to feel safe, or do I choose to live fully? The second option requires letting go of expectations and seeing the world and everything in it as it really is, in every moment, and trusting that it’s all good, no matter what it is. Roses have thorns, after all that. That’s just the way things are.
Go forward into that daring adventure. Look for the talking dog. Smell the flowers, accept the rain. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way.
The alternative is nothing at all.
May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart…something good is going to happen to you.
May you find harmony between your soul and your life.
May the mansion of your soul never become a haunted place.
May you know the eternal longing that lies at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you be set free from the prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment and despair.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.