I’m told that in Buddhist countries, when it’s your birthday, YOU give the gifts, to celebrate your gratitude for your life.
I teach the regular Thursday night sitting group at InsightLA, and this year, it falls on Oct. 11, my birthday. Thinking about how I could make this Thursday sit my gift to the insightLA community has already given me great joy. Instead of thinking of my birthday as a day that brings me one step closer to aging, sickness and death, my inheritance as a sentient being, I am thinking of it as a celebration of the fact that I was given birth into this precious human existence, at this time and place, with such privilege and abundance and so much available to us, particularly, but not limited to, our access to these precious teachings.
Impermanence does not only mean loss, but also gain. All conditioned things arise and pass away, but often we are often so focused on what is passing away, that we loose sight of what is arising. The world is continually being born and reborn, created anew, moment by moment. And, as Louis Armstrong sang, it’s a wonderful world.
We are so accustomed to comparing ourselves and our lives to what they would be if they were different and better, and feeling bad about the gap. But this is a habit of mind, and it is a habit that can be changed. I know it can be done because I’ve done it. I have “changed my mind” to look for the good, the delightful, the beautiful, the funny, wherever I can find it, like playing “Where’s Waldo?” and finding as many lovely things as I can in any moment or situation. Just as when we sit, we notice breath and body sensations that are always there, but usually beneath the level of awareness, we can train ourselves to see the good nestled within so many things that we ordinarily take for granted.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore tricks and techniques for training the mind to practice happiness and gratitude.
For now, if you’re able to come this Thursday, I’ve ordered a big beautiful Buddha cake to share with my beloved sangha, my birthday present to commemorate the day of my birth, and the fact that I am not dead yet.