I love surprises, and I really enjoy surprising others, too. It’s one of those treasures in life that should never be abandoned. To really catch someone unexpectedly, you need to be awake and sensitive to what they say and do when they’re with you. “Waking up” is a continuous process. There’s no limit to your awareness, but it takes practice. How many of us have lived or worked with someone for years who has to keep asking us how we like our coffee. You wonder if they would remember your name if they had to take you to the emergency room. The poet Kabir expresses this idea very well: “If you are in a deep sleep, why waste time smoothing the bed and arranging the pillows?” It takes the ability to listen and be fully present in conversation so you’re able to recall the things that please others. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or complicated; in fact, it’s the insignificant details that truly delight people. To remember how a certain individuals take their coffee or what their favorite colors are means that you care and you’ve paid attention—you’re awake! Similarly, you need to remain open to the surprises that occur in your life. They can be lovely gestures from others, and sometimes they’ll be nothing more than a sudden appreciation of something new and wonderful. There’s a profound side to living a life full of surprise: It can spur your ability to be grateful. To act as if each day has wonderful unknown opportunities opens the door to being thankful and feeling happiness. I’ve watched many children clap their hands gleefully at a butterfly, flower, or rainbow—it’s the merry delight in the unexpected that they’re experiencing. What’s really great about kids is that they are surprised repeatedly over the same thing, however, our culture is making it more and more difficult for this to continue, since anything new becomes old very quickly. I have grown to greatly appreciate the surprise of finding my mate has emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the countertops and vacuumed the crumbs off the kitchen floor. I am totally surprised and delighted when I sleep through the night and when I can still fit in some of the clothes. It makes for a really good day. Try to fill your life with surprise and don’t allow cynicism to become your ally, for it will only age you quickly…then the only surprise you’ll get is an early death
I am absolutely amazed and awed by the animal kingdom. Many a night I prefer to watch National Geographic Wild than any other shows. Over the last few years I have learned so much about how animals interact and how much smarter and compassionate they are. Therefore, I am increasingly appalled by how a percentage of humans still consider animals to not have any mental reactions when they are held captive or physically abused. Studies in animal behavior are showing more and more that psychological damage suffered by dogs living in puppy mills is profound and exists long after they’ve been rescued. Even when placed in loving homes with individuals who take great care to handle them with love and tenderness, many still have elevated levels of fears and phobias, and an inability to respond to affection. Anecdotal evidence has long shown that the dogs, lacking normal human contact and living predominately in cages often suffer from post-traumatic depression. When I took Psychology 101 in college they discussed something called Hospitalism which was a diagnosis used in the 1930s to describe infants who wasted away while in hospitals from lack of human contact. The symptoms could include retarded physical and mental development, and disruption of perceptual-motor skills and language. Many soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. The sounds and images of war and the actual involvement in being in a constant state of “fight or flight” leaves the brain more vulnerable and often unable to integrate into their former lives counseling and the love and understanding of friends and family. Many of the articles I have read about war and the toll it takes on mind/body and spirit seem so obvious. How could you not be influenced by being the witness to death and destruction? All of the above whether it involves animals, babies, children or adults continues to show us that our brains hold on to memories long after they have passed. We cannot simply erase them for they become who we are. I often wish I could remove thoughts that seem to have minds of their own. Round and round they go and they create feelings that can be positive or negative. Perhaps the day will come when there will be a global epiphany that realizes that kindness, respect, and compassion towards each other and our animal friends is the only way to live.