Name Your Cows: Pandemic Edition

I love naming my cows. It has become an important check-in for me to do every once in awhile. About a week ago, I knew it was time. During this stay at home season, I caught myself projecting my happiness out into the future instead of claiming it in this moment. “I will be happy (insert any number of options that all translated to) when life gets back to normal.”

This is not a pause on life. This is life. This life is hard. There is so much pain and loss. So much death. All the more important to stand in the present moment and claim the life that is right in front of me.

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Relax:

One day the Buddha was sitting having a silent lunch together with his monks in the woods. A farmer came hurrying by and asked, “Dear monks, have you seen my cows? They have all left me this morning. If I don’t have my cows, how can I live? Insects have eaten my fields of sesame; I couldn’t harvest anything. I cannot live. I think I will kill myself.” The Buddha said, “Dear friend, we’ve been sitting here for a while, and we haven’t seen any cows pass by. Maybe you can look in another direction.” So the farmer left. The Buddha turned to his monks and said, “Dear monks, you are very lucky. You don’t have any cows to lose.”

What are your cows? What are you chasing in order to be okay? What is holding you back from being happy with what you have in front of you right now? Write them down. Take a look at them. And then, if you are hinging your happiness on them, try to let them go.

I will be happy when my next book gets published. I will be happy when I can go back to my yoga studio. I will be happy when I find more balance as a mother, partner, writer, teacher and human who enjoys alone time. I will be happy when I have less ZOOM meetings and can see my friends again.

Look at me projecting my happiness out into the future, away from where I stand. If and when those things happen, there will be new cows to chase. The more often I name my cows the easier it is for me to see them write away. The quicker I catch myself seeping presence and power. I whisper, “Cow, cow, cow.” I attempt to let them go and sit under my tree in the woods being content with no cows to chase.