I was 12 when I started spending summers on my uncle's farm. That's when I took Cow 101. And those lessons have guided me through the past 60 years.
On that first day when I met Jenny, Jasmine, Janice, and Jackie, I fell in love. Those cows came wandering in from the field, walked right over, and put their heads into the stanchions. Then they looked up at me with those big tender eyes. I tell you, I could see love in their faces – and I felt the same way. As I got to know those girls, I learned five important truisms about life.
1. Cows don't hurry.
The girls never rushed into anything. In fact, getting milk cows to run is not an easy matter. I decided to try following their example and slowing things down myself. Nowadays you can't get me to hurry anything.
2. Cows live on the "grazing principle."
The girls followed the fresh grass – wherever it might lead. They didn't worry much about an exact route. They just went along until it was time to head for the milking shed. I wandered along in the pasture after I finished my chores, and I thought it might be a good practice to take things as they come. I read somewhere that "life is what happens while you're making other plans." So I stopped making plans, and it's amazing how much I get done just doing what needs to be done right now.
3. Cows are individuals living in a group.
Jasmine was nothing like Jenny; each had her own personality. One would lie on the ground while chewing ever so slowly. Another would be curious about an untouched patch of grass. Janice seemed to enjoy counting cars.
Back at school after my summers on the farm, I practiced doing my own thing even while being in the group. Now I have a 10-year-old I'm trying to teach that lesson to, so he knows that he doesn't have to do what the others do; he can be his own person.
4. Cows don't fight one another.
I have never seen two cows disagree. They don't think there's much of anything worth fighting about. They always seem to get along just fine – even when the herd is large. That's pretty amazing, if you think about it.
As for me, I can't say I've never been in a fight. But I learned from the cows that there are ways to get along with people if you have a bit of humility.
5. Cows are, therefore, contented.
Cows seem pretty happy with life. A bit of grass, some open space, occasional sunshine, and the relief of milking – that's all it takes to please a cow.
Ah, to find such peace. I have practiced cloud gazing and slow walking ... and sometimes I feel that "Cow Zen." Be here now. Be here cow. It's all the same.
However, it is important to point out that bulls are another matter entirely.
When I first visited the farm, I thought Jake, my uncle's prize bull, must be just about as easygoing as the girls. I went into the pen to say hello and rub his nose as I did for Jasmine. That's the day I learned that I could run faster than I would ever have suspected and I could hurdle a five-foot fence without the slightest hesitation.
And so I learned that as I saunter through life trying to be peaceful, it's important to differentiate the bulls from the cows. The word "bully" comes from the likes of Jake. So I try to spot the bulls before they see me, and that has made all the difference.
Once in New York, a young hooligan who wasn't looking where he was going ran into me. I figured it was better to take the blame. I said, "I'm sorry. I didn't see you coming. Are you all right?"
That turned his glaring, I'm-gonna-rip-your-eyes-out look into one of confusion. He ran off. No fighting needed.
Thus Cow Zen has seen me through the wandering turns of a long, long life.