The other morning I saw a flock of sheep and lambs. The lambs ranged in age from recently born ones who followed their mothers on very shaky legs to some slightly older ones.
The older lambs were learning that legs were perfect for leaping and bouncing and frolicking through the meadow. They expressed their joy at being alive in bodies with every careless kick of their heels.
Later on, when I was thinking about what I’d seen, I thought, “The magic is that they are whole and perfect. They don’t doubt themselves or lack self-esteem. They don’t hear voices telling them they should be cleaning or writing worrying about the future. They will never know guilt.”
And I wondered why I couldn’t be like that. That question turned out to have its own magic because it sliced away the layers of guilt and “should” and self-doubt and the long list of things I should change about myself. At my core, I’m as whole and as perfect as the lambs—but most of the time, I forget that.
What’s the difference between me—and you—and the dancing lamb or the fawns who raced through my former back yard or the bright-eyed curiosity of baby raccoons? It could be those big brains that humans take pride in. Anyone who has ever upgraded their operating systems knows that each new upgrade creates many chances for error.
Imagination, for example, is a great human gift, and I count it as a priceless upgrade, but it doesn’t discriminate between imagining the best and imagining the worst.
Maybe the biggest problem is that the initial user’s manual we get to go with our big brains is the long set of instructions we get from our parents. Animal parents also instruct their children but mostly about real dangers—like humans. Our parents teach us about dangers that may or may not ever come to pass.
This leads to the unique human mental/emotional state called anxiety. It’s difficult to kick up your heels when you’re worried about what might happen in thirty years.
If I want to experience that I’m perfect, I need to live less in the past, where I learned all the things I should worry about and all the things for which I should judge myself. I also need to stop taking all those worries and judgments and expecting more of them in the future.
That’s called living in the present. That’s what lambs do. We can do it, too.
Photo credit: Keven Law, Los Angeles, USA