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Expanding the Fullness

“Five decades ago, some very kind people in Japan slipped me the secret: you can dramatically extend life—not by multiplying the number of your years, but by expanding the fullness of your moments.” ― Shinzen Young, The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works

“Pay more attention to every moment, however mundane: to find novelty not by doing radically different things but by plunging more deeply into the life you already have.” — Shinzen Young

I don’t meditate, not in the traditional sense anyway. Instead I remain present with whatever the world offers me. With a new puppy I’m very much in her moments as she learns her new environment and sorts out the complexity of living with two cats who aren’t yet pleased to share the limelight with a new being. Some things take time.

The trick is in savoring our presence right here and now. We ought to immerse ourselves in whatever we’re doing, but we get caught up in the minutia of everyday living instead. We react instead of absorb, and in doing so, sometimes miss the nuance of the moment. But seeing how a new puppy navigates the garden changes how you look at it yourself. Zooming out a bit, you also see how the world reacts to the new puppy. Fellow humans gush, while felines feign annoyed indifference. House wrens chirp threateningly when the pup gets too close to their nest, betraying something else happening there that I wasn’t previously aware of. When we pay attention to the world it opens up for us in fascinating new ways.

The other day I sat in the sun while my brother slept, exhausted from sleepless nights from the pain he finds himself in as he undergoes a third round of radiation. He’s got limited time now, and the quality of the time he does have is greatly diminished by the treatment plan he’s chosen. Despite the underlying tragedy of his situation, my own in that moment was rather pleasant, and I was struck by the contrast as the two of us occupied a small corner of the world in very different phases of our respective health spans. Contrast aside, or perhaps serving as an amplifier, I found myself very much in the moment.

It isn’t lost on me, the end of life struggles of one person against the beginning of life awakening of a puppy. And me? Somewhere in between, living day-by-day and doing my best to savor the plunge.

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