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Every Day is a New Day

April 3, 2016

by Stephen Damon

Sitting down at my computer I just reread what I wrote last week, and while it seemed to capture a lot of my honest impressions of this new stage of my life, I realized that almost each paragraph was just the beginning of a study of myself. And I wondered if a lot of my work has only led me to beginnings of one study or another that never went very far. Of course, any study of myself or the world around me cannot come to an end. If it seems to, all that means is that I have given up a search that needs to go on indefinitely. I have learned over and over again that anytime I think I’ve come to an understanding of something it always seems to be at least subtly incomplete. So the question becomes can I keep on searching, not for an answer, but for an ongoing sense of the endlessness of things.

And so I need to challenge myself not to give up my search toward an understanding of the big questions that now appear more clearly than ever before. And while my life feels more finite than ever before can I feel that my search will go on indefinitely? I feel that what I need to do is balance that which has a definite end and that which somehow is endless. Is there a way for me to include both of these “facts” without trying to judge or make sense of what may not make any “sense” at all.  In a sense, can I see that I have two natures that need to be reconciled in my sense of what I am?

Can I wake up each morning as if it were the first time that I have awakened from a period of sleep. Can I allow, and perhaps foster, a sense of the wonder about just being alive at this particular moment? For an example of this, imagine that you have just traveled to a city that you have never visited before. You wake up and you have a sense that you have never been there before and you need to decide how best to spend the day. You feel that everything is new and contains almost infinite possibilities of discovery.

A few months ago my mother told me to make a bucket list of things I wanted to do and places I’d like to visit. I have to admit that I really couldn’t come up with much of anything. Thinking about it I realized that the kind of traveling I needed and wanted to do didn’t require passports. I realized that I needed to “travel” my inner world. And while I may have seen many of the sites in this subtle world, I wondered if I could feel that I had never really seen them before. Perhaps because they had changed and perhaps because I had changed. Could I keep a sense of the newness and the unknown as a challenge to meet the day ahead has wholeheartedly as I could? Could I plan my day as if I were somewhere I have never been before?

While all this may seem a bit theoretical I have come to rely on an ancient Tibetan practice to help me face the fact that each day is new and filled with great possibility. In Buddhist practice, especially Tibetan Buddhist practice, one learns that it is important to be aware of the fact that the moment of death may come at any time. In fact it is suggested that you bring this awareness to mind before your morning sitting. More than that, can one keep this awareness in the back of one’s mind as she or he moves about their day?

To help with this, the Tibetans have come up with a practice that you can do every morning. The first moment you are awake, before you even move your head or scratch an itch, you get a sense that this day may be your last day. Some have suggested that you imagine that this day is your last day. I have just started this practice and so far I haven’t noticed many results, but I have practiced it before and I have noticed that after a month or so, everything begins to change. I have noticed that my actions seem more mindful and I have wasted less time. Even small things like picking up the morning paper from the driveway becomes a possibility for me not to be lost in dreams but to be as present as I can.

To be honest, I have to admit that I have never stayed with this practice for very long. But now I see that I must try to do this every day for as long as I can. And perhaps on the day that it turns out to be true can I meet the unknown, not with fear or trepidation, but as something new to be experienced with all that I am. Can I experience the moment of death not as a self-limited instant in time but as a boundless and endless manifestation of the way things are?

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