As I sit in the cab of the 40,000 pound, red and white moving toolbox with a 500 gallon water tank in the middle while sirens blare, the wind whips around my face. When I’m anticipating the unknown, time seems to stand still as I approach the edge of the present.

Undoubtedly, one of the best things about riding in the crowded fire truck is that I am able to accept and embrace the fact that I am entrusting the outcome of my day to the universe with open arms and a wide stance.

I mean by that that I go about my day expecting the unexpected.

Funny how that is…

Because if I’m not careful, I might fall back on Mom Standard Operating Procedures when I’m off duty, at home, and in mom mode, and I’ll end up the planner. The dreaded Planner, indeed.

Indeed, she is a planner.

Her shopping list is prepared. She schedules her activities as well as those for the kids. She organizes family vacations. She schedules the canine’s day. As for when things don’t go as planned, ha! Watch out.

– Embrace the Unknown –

But once we’re back on the fire truck, my attitude changes to one of serenity and philosophy. I work my 24-hour shift, anticipating the unexpected.

For instance, we may have live fire burns scheduled on the practice range, classes to keep our certifications up to date, or business safety inspections to finish.

With the best of intentions, a day could end with a three-car collision, a stroke, a possible heart attack, a sheared fire hydrant, an assault, a car into a building, CPR and defibrillation, a mutual aid dispatch for a quickly spreading wildland fire, returning to the station by 2200 hours, and then responding to five more emergencies overnight.

When the Unexpected rears its mischievous head and throws us a few curve balls, do we flinch or even bat an eye while we’re on the fire truck? The unexpected is accepted as a normal part of our day, not something to be feared on your life.

A childhood friend of mine used to lash out and become angry, I recall. “But I simply did not anticipate that!” he would complain.

What should we actually anticipate?

I make an effort to apply what I’ve learned on the fire truck to my personal life. I tell myself that we are always dancing with the unknown. Without a doubt, we can plan excessively. Truly, we can never predict the future. I’ve discovered that if we actually plan for the unexpected, we are one step ahead of the game.

It’s even possible that we’ve given the unknowable a bad reputation. The unknown need not always be a bad thing. Do we keep in mind that, even though external circumstances may not always be within our control, it is the way we decide to approach the unknowable that makes the difference? How about we just accept it? Do we think we can solve the problem? Do we even have faith that everything will turn out okay in the end?

– Live in the Present –

Firefighters transform into Zen masters, totally focused on the Here and Now, as they handle various emergency challenges, such as tending to the senior who breaks a hip after falling or helping the child whose foot gets stuck between the iron fence bars.

One of the reasons why those of us who work in this field love it so much, in my opinion, is that we constantly have the chance to be in the moment.

My mind cannot stray when I am fully concentrated on my task. Being in the pure creative now is thrilling and energizing, similar to when a musician, artist, or athlete is totally present in their work. Real life can be found there.

The moment we allow our thoughts to take our attention away, we are no longer in the present. Because our thoughts are either ones about the future or ones about the past, when we allow our thoughts to unceremoniously swerve us from this state of the potent now, we have effectively stepped into a time machine.

Without our awareness, our thoughts may become compulsive. We might let our thoughts imprison us outside of the present. We might identify too strongly with our thoughts. Are we criticizing, planning, regretting, wishing, wallowing, wondering, or analyzing when we are lost in our thoughts? We are frequently not in a joyful state when we allow our thoughts to run amok.

What if we spent the majority of our time living in the moment? What if we concentrated entirely on what was in front of us, even as we wash the dishes or wash our cars? Every so often, I’m struck by how, when I’m fully present, even seemingly dull chores come to life. Being present might prove to be incredibly fulfilling when we keep our attention on the here and now.

Let’s embrace the unknown and concentrate on the here and now, just like the firefighters who responded to an emergency. We will have reached the realms of fulfillment and joy when we are willing to greet the unknown, let go of our thoughts, and become one with the present.

Embark on a fire truck ride with us! It’s possible that you’ll learn Zen.

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