zenhabits : breathe

How to Master the Art of Living

By Leo Babauta

Imagine you had a gorgeous blueberry sitting on the otherwise empty plate in front of you. You pick it up gently, place it on your tongue, and begin to taste it.

You already know how a blueberry tastes, and so when this one is a bit riper than you’d like, you make a face, feel the disappointment, swallow it with displeasure.

Or perhaps it tastes exactly as you’d expected: no big deal. You swallow, and move on with your day.

In the first case, the blueberry was disappointing because it didn’t meet expectations. In the second, it was boring because it met expectations.

Now try this: have no expectations of how the blueberry will taste. You don’t know because you haven’t tried it yet. You’re curious, open to a variety of tastes.

You taste it, and really pay attention. You notice the tanginess, the firmness of the skin, the sweet mushiness of the center, the complex flavors that emerge as you eat it. You didn’t know how it would taste, but this is brilliant! It’s new, because you’ve never tasted anything quite like it.

This is sometimes called the Beginner’s Mind, but I think of it as a mind free of expectations.

The blueberry, of course, can be anything in life: any experience, any person you meet, any cup of tea, any task before you, any interaction with a loved one, any thought that enters your head, any moment of the day.

If you approach any of these with expectations, they will often disappoint or frustrate you … or be bland, blah, usual. And you move on to the next disappointing or frustration or usual experience, and so on, so that life is nothing but a series of things you barely like and barely notice.

If you approach each moment, each task, each person, without expectations … and just see that moment or person as they are … then you will really see that moment. Really appreciate it. Experience it like you’ve never experienced anything before, because you haven’t.

This is the Art of Living.

The Worlds That Open Up

When you learn to approach each person and moment and task without expectations, it transforms everything. New worlds open up to you.

A handful of examples:

This is just the start. We can learn that plans, goals, ideals … these are all fantasies of what we’d like life to be like, and they’re not real. We can learn to let go of the fantasies that inevitably occur, and just experience life as it is, as it happens.

This is the Art of Living.

How to Master the Art

Mastering the Art of Living is not as easy as you’d expect, as you’d fantasize. It takes practice. It means learning to be mindful of when you have these ideals, expectations, fantasies. It means learning to see the frustrations, anger, sadness, loneliness, irritations as signals of the expectations you have and didn’t notice.

It means practicing that, and then practicing letting them go.

That means a lot of practice, and a lot of remembering to practice.

But that’s the fun of it. You drop the expectation that you’ll be perfect at this practice, and just try it. You learn from the trying. You get better. You learn some more. And each moment, along the way, is a miracle to be appreciated and enjoyed, so the process of mastery is a succession of miracle moments.

That’s a beautiful thing.



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