Sunday, December 30, 2012

Not Zen 39: No Consequence

On a cold night on a windy hillside, a young ewe circled her flock. The guard dog gazed down from the top of the hill. The rest of the sheep huddled together. Most protected themselves from the wind but one ewe kept moving, looking for her child.

Even after she found her lamb a third of the way into the crowd where he had fallen asleep with his playmate, she continued to wander. The guard dog huffed. He got to his feet and trotted down to the ewe.

"There are no predators," he told her. "You can rest now."

"Do you know me?"

"Of course I know you. You are the one who worries a lot."

"Is that how you think of me?" The ewe shuffled.

The dog tilted his head. He waited.

"I keep telling myself to be calm but it doesn't work," said the ewe. "I have to deal with problems all the time. I'm always tense and upset."

"Those problems," said the dog, "must be similar to those of the other sheep. To be calm inside, you should remind yourself of that."

The young ewe shook her head. She contemplated her troublesome lamb, the rams who kept fighting over her and the other ewes, her relatives, seemingly always in trouble. She recalled the wolf who had stalked the herd in the previous year and all of the things that were constantly going wrong in her life. She remembered the things that had gone wrong and she anticipated all of the things likely to go wrong in the future, as well, which seemed to her to be nearly everything.

"I'm not like my sisters, you know," she proclaimed. "My oldest sister is so irresponsible. She mates and bears children without a care. She eats anything, entertains her friends and pleases herself. I'm not like that."

"Is your sister calm?"

"Hah. If you can all it that."

"Close your eyes for a moment. Pretend you are your sister."

"Yes?" The ewe squinted for a moment. She started to peek. Then she saw the dog watching and tried to keep her eyes closed tighter.

"Now imagine your problems as you always do. This time, regard them as if you were your sister."

The young ewe imagined that she was her sister viewing the world. She eyed the rams with contempt. The grasses were hers. Other sheep rumbled about the hillsides without clear goals but they did not affect her. She lived in the moment, without worries. If the wind disturbed her she sidled up inside the flock. If her lamb's bleating annoyed her, she trotted away until she felt better.

"Those problems are of no consequence!" she exclaimed in nearly her sister's voice.

"Yes, I thought that might be the case."

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