Coming home from a long day at my new home, my grad school, I feel a bit lost. My head is filled with all kinds of questions: how do I quickly become acquainted here? How do I gain the trust of the people in power here? How can I best prove my worth? How do I connect with my peers whom I haven’t met? How will I pass the prelims? How will I be able to get the fellowship that I want? How will I lead a normal life while juggling so much responsibilities? Am I cut out for this?
I only have faintly planned out the ways to solve these problems. Most of them are not guaranteed, or even likely, to succeed, knowing my past experience. I know myself well: I am an optimist at heart and I can see myself going places. Paradoxically, I am paralyzed by these doubts, questions, and insecurities. I feel like all my actions are recorded and judged, and there’s only so many strikes before I would be given up on.
Being so anxious and paralyzed, I cannot lay down to rest. My optimism is jaded and my mind is swirling with ideas on how to improve my current situation. I don’t like not being optimistic and not having hope. I like my world views rose-tinted, or maybe I don’t like it, but I have to out of habit.
I had an idea, though, that I should pick up meditation, with my cat. I closed my eyes and had begun meditating. Every once in a while, I open my eyes to look at my napping friend and felt a bit calmer.
There are many things to be learned from cats, one of them being the indifferent attitude of cats. Cats lounge around all day, seemingly purposeless. When they wake up, they find somewhere comfortable to take another nap. Compare to humans, who are always have some kind of lofty goal, perhaps we can learn a thing or two.
Being ambitious is usually a healthy thing, but having too much can lead to loss of sleep, paranoia about the future, depression about the present, and stagnation of progress.
In the face of troubles and doubts of the future, we should just be like cats. Anything can be solved by a nap. And if you can’t nap, just take a second to shut your eyes and let your troubles melt away. Find somewhere to cuddle in warmth and let your mind wander in beautiful thoughts. Life’s purpose is not so well defined, and when you try really hard to define your life, it’s natural when things don’t seem to go your way.
I took another look at my Zen master in slumber as his furry belly rises and falls. Like my cat, I should just let life happen to me. As long as I do my best, there’s nothing that should take away my precious, well-deserved sleep.