“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
~ The Fourteenth Dalai Lama
How did you start your day? What were the first thoughts you remember racing through your mind? Did they resemble those suggested by His Holiness? How often do you reflect on your precious human life? While admittedly, I do not have those thoughts, in that order, immediately on my mind upon arising, I’ve acquired a nifty little trick to keep the ever encroaching daily to-do list demons at bay. Love and smile.
About a year ago I listened to Brian Rose interview former boxing champ Chris Eubank on the London Real Podcast. Mr. Eubank was an absolute delight to listen to and a true inspiration. He left not the impression of a mere pugilist, but that of a gentleman-warrior-scholar, like an Alexander the Great, Miyamoto Musashi, Sun Tzu, or Kublai Khan. He recited, from memory, long and elegant quotes verbatim and dished out compassion and wisdom with nearly every sentence he uttered. It is a truly enlightening interview and I cannot recommend it enough. While the sweet nuggets of wisdom were abound, one particular little trick has stuck with me as a daily habit: love and smile. One of Mr. Eubank’s secrets to a good life is that upon waking, he pushes away any initial inkling toward a potentially harmful thought and says aloud, “Love, love, love, smile, smile, smile.”
Perhaps it sounds silly and trite, but it works. I know, without fail, that every single day, my first wakefully conscious thought is love and as I make my bed and open my curtains, I welcome the new day with the biggest smile I can muster on my face. Let me tell you, it works wonders. Give it a shot tomorrow morning and maybe even the morning after. Take note of how your morning goes and the rest of your day building on that morning experience. Worst case scenario, you started your day thinking about love…not so bad, right?
Beginning the day in such a way has dramatically improved my life. Because let’s face it, it is far too easy to allow ourselves to be swept up in the mundane details of daily life. A curious byproduct of cultural, societal, and technological evolution is an unavoidable complexification of day to day activities. We are still human. We still share the same basic needs of our ancestors; ensuring the acquisition of breath, water, food, sleep and warmth continues to dominate our daily actions, but the guise these necessities have taken on looks drastically different than it did for our forebears. Each of these requirements for survival have developed a rather insidious co-evolving pathology that at best, influences and at worst replaces these base imperatives of existence. Progress has largely stripped us of our ability to wander through the wilderness and gather, hunt, or construct the solutions to our survival quandary. For better and worse, our days are now spent engaged in a wide variety of activities aimed at producing a reward that will hopefully provide us with the means to procure and/or maintain that which we need in order to carry on this precious human life. In other words, we work to make money to pay for the shit that keeps us alive.
Now, I would never claim to be a neo-luddite nor am I proposing that we revert back to our hunter-gatherer roots by renouncing modernity. While I’m fascinated by the tales, I hold no over-romanticized delusions of antediluvian superiority. I happen to like my house and car, my laptop and wifi, health food stores and fancy restaurants, yoga studios and coffee shops; and I’m perfectly alright with enjoying these modern accouterments. I’d even go so far as to say that I greatly appreciate them. Actually, I think that’s the point. Privilege quickly turns into entitlement when appreciation shits the bed.
I mean no offense, but if you’re reading this, you’re privileged. You’re likely better off than 95% of all people in the history of humanity. It’s okay to stop and appreciate that. Drop the guilt surrounding the circumstances of your birth and life choices, be grateful for all that you’ve been given and that which you’ve worked hard for, and give as much as you can of yourself and your resources to ease the suffering of the beings you share this planet with. Because who knows what’s really going on?
It’s very difficult to speak in certainties. While we strive for Truth, often the best we can achieve is truthiness. Religion gives us stories corroborated by subjective ineffable experiences. Science gives us stories corroborated by subjectively objective measurable experiments. Both claim to hold the Truth. Likely, the Truth is some abysmal secret love child of the two; shifting, growing and changing with each new interpretation of scripture and every new scientific discovery.
And here we are, miraculously alive amidst the ever undulating truthiness of perceived authority. Somehow finding a way to manage our inner worlds while ceaselessly chasing after ways to sustain our outer realities. If you’re anything like me, you wake up every day as a fairly recognizable representation of the “self” you fell asleep as, in a life closely resembling the one you fell asleep living. That confounding consistency is as close as I can get to some semblance of truth; so I’m choosing to be grateful for this bit of truth, this daily arriving as a person of this planet. I am fortunate to have this precious human life and I refuse to squander this inconceivably rare opportunity.