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Just Be a Cow

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

I find it stunning to think about how, as a civilization, we've gotten so plugged-in to the ever-changing, chaotic madness of our time that we can’t imagine life being any less busy, stressful, straining, and exhausting than it is. However, if you let your mind wander to even 5 years ago, life felt drastically different then than now. Consider that 10 years ago, most people "survived" an existence without tablets and smartphones and instant access to anything and everything! Realize that just about 15 years ago, we were at the event-horizon of the blackhole that is the pseudo-reality of Reality-TV, and a mere 20 years ago, many people didn’t even have cell phones or home computers or the fragile, silky strings of the dial-up lines that connected us to the billions of pages of the world-wide-web. Think back far enough, and you might remember that once upon a time, you were even a child, dewy and fresh, with far less worry to carry and everything ahead of you.


Things have changed so quickly in the last couple decades that we’re hard-pressed to remember life without the tethering dings of the phones in our pockets, and being a living human today is much more challenging because of it. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a child in this Age, to start over with all of the hindrances-masked-as-conveniences that our children face. It seems that with every new and improved method for completing a task, some hard-earned skill, acquired through the friction of effort, is lost. It was just weeks ago that my 17-year-old lamented that his friend never answers his phone, and so he wasn’t sure if he was home for a visit. I told him to take the three-block hike and knock on his door—an idea that never even occurred to him…Um, what?! Kids today can type 70 words per minute and fly through instant messages even more quickly, but simple social graces like engaging in conversation (and sometimes, even common sense and basic function) are strewn along the wayside as they race faster and faster toward an adulthood they aren’t prepared for, and that isn’t all that awesome right now anyway.


And then they arrive to exactly where we are today, and where we are is lost, without connection, rhythm, belonging, or purpose. We drive separately to mundane jobs where we’re isolated, exploited, and worn down, spending any breaks by ourselves and plugged-in to our phones. Then, we drive home to spend time “relaxing” (distracting) on the couch, binge-watching others' fake lives before we pass out in bed (if we’re lucky), and our weekends are pretty much the same. This aimless, exhausting path can ultimately feel disgruntling--shouldn’t we eventually be done with this race to nowhere and arrive? Isn’t there supposed to be more? To quote the great Ray Lamontagne, "it's not living that you're doing if it feels like dying..."


About a year ago, as I drove home from visiting my daughter who is away at school, I had what I would come to call The Bovine Epiphany somewhere along the 7-hour journey. Rounding a bend in the highway, a lush, rolling field opened before me and I saw a lone brown cow standing among the swaying grasses. There was something striking about the simplicity of this bovine beauty, languorous in the warm sun, with a slim, white bird perched on her back. The scene was so simple and peaceful and plain, and in an instant it felt like everything within and around me geared down into slow motion.


In a moment of pristine clarity, it occurred to me that this cow truly didn’t give a shit about whether or not she looked fat while grazing on the sweet greens around her. She couldn't care less about returning bullshit emails to the farmer, making arbitrary milk-production deadlines, or paying overpriced veterinary bills. She wasn't worried if her stall was too messy for the in-laws to visit, or if the pasture looked overgrown to the passersby. She didn’t concern herself with the latest Cowsmo article about Fixing Her Relationship with These Five Tips, about who got kicked off the Barnyard Bachelor, and it didn't seem to bother her that her eyebrows might be too thick for this season. She didn’t feel the pressure of keeping up with her fellow heifers, didn’t worry that she’s not making the most of her calves' free time, and didn't fret about chewing just a little bit longer everyday to get ahead in the Barn. She didn’t even care that there was a bird standing on her back, hitching a decidedly free ride. What complete and udder bliss. It took a fraction of a second to recognize that the simple and elegant spirit and life that this cow has is the exact same as mine. We are inherently natural beings created of bliss and love, and if my life started out as easy, as free, as open, as joyous and spacious, how did I possibly get to where I am now?


She was just out there...being. She was feeling the sun warm her skin. She was smelling the earth and breathing in the air around her. She was standing tall among living, waving grasses. She was listening to birdsong lilting around her. There was nothing unnecessary to distract her from focusing on the moment, and in her stillness, time stood still. I, on the other hand, was in my car, driving for 7 hours, which was something I had chosen to add to my life. Don't get me wrong, there are obligations to being a human, like pimples and death and taxes, and plenty of in-between things that are non-negotiable. Most of us will need to figure out car insurance, and middle school science fair projects are an unfortunate, necessary evil. However, in this moment of clarity, it became increasingly obvious to me that there is plenty of space among the pit-stops of modern life that I am choosing to clutter with all of the stuff that is just. not. necessary. Do I really need ALL of the social medias to vicariously experience other peoples' embellished lives? Do I need my phone at all times, or on my nightstand, ever? Do I need Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and Disney+ ? Do I need lash-boosting serums, expression-paralyzing injections, or supportive stretchy pants to hoist my aging flanks? Do I need to invest any of my very limited lifespan learning about the latest, or worst, or most pointless that society has to offer ("Find out Which Celebrity Had the Best Halloween Costume of 2016!" gets me every time)? More, is the way I’m "living" shaping the expectations my kids have of their own potential and happiness?


I began to question each and every need in my experience, and considered what I did without many of these things 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Could I remember what it was like to actually survive in life without a cell phone or streaming video apps? Without having instant access to the Great Google, and important answers to burning questions like "How tall is Hulk Hogan?" and "How are Cadbury Eggs made?" ? Could it be possible to experience more simplicity in life, or more of my life, without these "needs" that I don't really need? I wondered if jettisoning some of that baggage could give me more room to live.


As it turns out, space to breathe and time to align with the slowness of Nature is the very little answer to this very big question. Eliminating those things that unnecessarily hurry our minds and worry our hearts can create an open path to discovering, celebrating and relishing our natural states of harmony, belonging, and bliss. Life is meant to be created, explored, and enjoyed, and if instead it is simply being endured, it is time to take power and energy back from those things that mean to form our experience without our direct input and intention. Also, with our many modern conveniences, it can be a challenge to remember that we are biological beings, born of Nature and inherently aligned with all of her waxing and waning rhythms. When we stray too far from the essence of this Truth, from rising with the sun and sleeping with the moon, from eating fresh, simply, and seasonally, from resting when it's called for, from appreciating the wonders of nature all around us, we begin to suffer because of the devastating disconnect from the Source of our spirits.


It might take baby steps to ease out of the roller coaster of our unconscious habits and non-stop lifestyles, but it is possible, and it is impossibly rewarding. Piece by piece, and layer by layer, we can step out of this illusory race to nowhere to uncover the inherent joy again, and to create the lives and experiences that we’re really supposed to be living.


What could loving your life feel like? I've found the path to the answer is pretty simple.


Just be a Cow.




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