Allow Life to Surprise You
Monotony is something we all contend with. The days and nights all feel the same, with the exception of a few unexpected diversions (both pleasant and unpleasant).
Following the same routine bores the mind and numbs the heart. So we try to break the routine and search for excitement wherever we can find it. We obsess over social media updates, or dream of an exotic vacation, or fantasize about winning the lottery … and all the things we can do.
But it doesn’t have to be the case. We don’t need to run away from our lives.
Instead of looking for the excitement in some abstract experience that may feel out of reach, why not look for the wonder and often ignored aspects of routine?
Life is full of surprises as it is—if we start to look at it differently. When we open up and see what life has to offer in this moment, the mundane can become something extraordinary.
This is not about finding a deeper meaning. It’s about waking up.
Where and when does life surprise us? Where and when does life not surprise us is more like it.
Being open to life is not easy. We’re mostly driven by conditioned expectations of what life should look like. Also awakening to life is not a one shot deal. It’s an ongoing process, just like breathing. It may feel undoable, overwhelming, or even scary.
And that’s okay.
All we need to do is pay attention, even for a few moments each day. Whenever you pay attention, allow the brilliance of the experience to shine through—as much as you can.
A few thoughts below as a starting point.
How can we let life surprise us?
We can pay attention and take notice of anything that transpires from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed—an insight, an observation, a feeling, an experience, or an encounter of any kind.
A few changes to our mindset is all we need.
Unwrapping this moment
Every morning we’re in for a new day, a new beginning, and a new ending. It may feel the same, but it never is.
The monotony that we feel is the product of distorted perception. It’s not the experience or the event. It’s the eyes that see and the mind that perceives that make the difference.
Remember the excitement of unwrapping a present when you were a kid?
Every waking moment is a gift—precious and mysterious. Instead of dread and drudgery, we can imagine the moment as a gift and see what it’s bringing.
I wake up usually feeling anxious and dreading what I have to do. Lately I’ve been thinking of the gift of being able to open my eyes and live another day. Wonder what life is bringing today.
I don’t do it every day (old habits are very hard to break). But I try to do it as soon as I remember.
It helps to remind yourself to pay attention. I have an item on my doing (not to-do) list that says:
Wake up to the very life you’re living.
Curiosity, not expectations
Curiosity is an evolutionary impulse. Every living organism is curious in its own way. Life all around us is in a perpetual state of exploration and expansion. It’s mind blowing.
We can greet the day with a curious mind, instead of an expectant one.
Even if you’re not curious, it’s still fascinating to observe the curiosity of life all around you (other people, especially children, animals, insects, birds).
Curiosity keeps us open and willing to experience different things. It’s not as rigid as conditioned expectations that lead to disappointment, or boredom.
Wonder what the bus ride is going to be like today. It would be fun to see what others are reading.
Changeability, not predictability
Do you think you’re predictable? I don’t think so; no one is.
Sometimes I shock myself (in good and not so good ways). I can’t say that I can predict with a modicum of certainty what I’ll do, let alone others, and every other living being in this vast universe.
Even the things that appear to be routine and predictable are not that predictable.
- What are the chances of meeting the same people at a coffee shop lineup every single day?
- What are the chances of being stuck in traffic with the same cars and the same people?
- What are the chances of meeting the same people (wearing the same clothes, having the same feelings and moods) on the same street?
On the surface the routine looks and feels familiar. Look for the unfamiliar and you’ll find it. Every person and every situation is a life and a story.
Doing the same thing doesn’t mean we experience the same exact event every single time. Each time is different and unique.
There are constants in life, and thank the universe for that. We don’t want gravity to suddenly have a bad mood. Or for the sun to move closer to earth, for example.
The laws and constants of creation are what allows everything else to change. We have seasons, weather patterns, life that blooms, and other that hibernates, all under the same rules.
We ourselves are changeable. Almost everything about us changes— taste, body, mood, energy, health … and outlook.
Observing our own actions can be empowering, or at least entertaining, when we step out of the haze of automated mindlessness.
As a practice I’ve been looking into the way I make coffee every morning. Some days I spill the beans, other days I spill the ground beans, I grind the beans differently every day, some times I pour the water fast, other times slow. I don’t think the coffee ever tasted the exact same. And that’s just coffee.
This changeable nature of life makes it all the more interesting and surprising—if and when we perceive without judgment or expectations.
Life is full of surprises. Every moment and every experience is new and unknown, until it passes. It’s within that fleeting, every so minuscule, fragment of time that life’s surprises unfold. We just need to look with a curious mind and a welcoming heart.