Some Thoughts About Birthdays and Mindfulness
You would be correct to assume that the reason I chose birthdays as the topic for this blog is that I recently celebrated my 71st. In recent years, each birthday is a sharp reminder of how time has and is continuing to pass. While that was always true, it became especially significant as I approached my 70th. Now I'm 71? I jokingly tell friends and family, "How'd that happen?" In other words, I've always been young and feel young and therefore, how can I have reached such a large number of years?
Of course, everyone tells me, "Well, it certainly beats the alternative." That's true but it's still disconcerting. My late grandmother, who lived to the old age of 93, used to tell us that every year after 70 is a special gift. It's thought that deserves some attention. Is it that continuing to live each of those years is the gift or is it something else? That something else is that life provides all of us with opportunities, regardless of age. None of us know how long we will live. One always hears about the tragedy of people who die either by disease of terrible accident, at horribly young ages. The point is to live each day, regardless of age, with fullness.
A good example of living life fully is what mindful meditation has to do with. Mindful meditation is about more than meditation. It's about living mindfully. That means taking in and being aware of each moment. It means hearing the sounds around you and noticing each moment. Thich Nhat Hanh, the great Vietnamese Buddhist whose life has been dedicated to living mindfully, taught that the idea is not to finish washing the dishes after dinner so that you can go and do something else. Rather, the idea is to be aware of each moment while doing the dishes. In fact, mindfulness is a state of active and open attention to the present without agonizing over the past or worrying about the future. It means accepting one own's self without being self judgmental. Instead of letting life pass by, live in the moment and awake to the experience of life.
Hopefully, age brings wisdom and wisdom brings mindfulness. In any case, it's important for all of us to live mindfully regardless of age. My resolution is to live fully and aware in each moment with whatever time I have left. Remember, none of us know how much time we have left. That is the nature of life. Nothing stays the same, everything changes and time move onward regardless of whether we want it to or not.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD