Sunday, May 14, 2017

Birthday: A day of gratitude

Birthdays are a rite of passage for all of us. Although that special day means something different to everyone at each stage of life, there is one thing in common. We would not be here to celebrate birthdays were it not for our parents. In addition to separate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, would it not be great if our birthdays would also be celebrated as Parent’s Day? That day would turn into a day of togetherness, day of giving and not getting.
Expectation builds as we approach every birthday, from “Who will send me wishes?” to “Who will buy me gifts and what will they be?” These expectations are also ingrained into our children. Instead, we ought make it a day on which we thank our biological parents for bringing us into the world, our teachers and mentors for shepherding us through school and college and last, but not the least to an unseen divine energy that pervades all life including ours. Without the gift of breath and life we would not be celebrating a birthday, whether ours or others.

We need not wait for birthdays to show our gratitude. In every breath, there is birth and life, providing a continuous opportunity to offer gratitude. The real birthday comes on the day when we make this a constant feature of our lives in every moment. This change marks the birth of a new awareness within ourselves. A continuous and conscious feeling of gratitude is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and it does not cost anything. It has been scientifically proven that evoking feelings of gratitude leads to positive changes in the hormonal axis as well as boosting our immunity. This simple act also increases DHEA, which has been elevated to the status of an anti-aging compound.
The body can store water and solids but not air, for which there is a constant need. The passage from the nostrils to the lungs serves as an umbilical cord that brings in life giving air. Through dependence on air, we are in constant communion with nature. “We get and forget” in every breath. In the short distance that air travels from the nostrils to the lungs through the “umbilical cord” like respiratory passages, the value of air increases exponentially. Life begins and ends in the lungs, not just in human lungs but also in nature’s lungs, the planet’s tree cover. Unfortunately, trees are less pleasing to the pocketbook than concrete, which in the name of development has spawned a whole new inorganic jungle where diseases abound due to lack of fresh air.
Our awareness mimics the back and forth movement of air between the nostrils and the lungs, moving constantly from the physical world to the mind and back. Each time the pendulum swings from the world to the mind and back, desires multiply like bacteria on stale food. The mind becomes a giant refrigerator keeping desires dormant in the “cold storage” of the subconscious mind until an opportune time comes to thaw them out. We have freedom of movement in the physical realm and our awareness roams in the mental plane, but that freedom is constrained by the limitations of the physical body and the mind. Like the respiratory passages which connect the outside to the inside, the body and the mind serve as passages for the movement of awareness. With each swing of the pendulum of our awareness, between the body and the mind, identification with body grows. Attachments form, roots are planted in “thin air” of the mind. Attachments make us self-centered.
On any given day, millions of people around the world share a birthday. On birthdays generally awareness is centered on ourselves. While it is alright to feel uniquely special, seldom do we think of our connection to millions of others through the same birthday. But why wait for a birthday to feel a special connection with other human beings?  Every passing moment is a new event and in those moments, the connection can expand to every human being. Wherever we are on earth, this very moment is common for all. How we use time may differ, but its essence is common and passed on like a baton from moment to moment.
If our awareness is connected wholly to the moment, changelessness can be experienced. Awareness in the present cannot be a thought, it can only be experienced. Without thought, there is no concept of time. When we sleep we are disconnected from time unconsciously. A conscious experience of that can only come about when our awareness is solely on the present. If we compare ourselves from moment to moment, there is no change in physical appearance. But ten birthdays ago or ten hence, there will be a lot of change.

Comparison and change is connected to time. When awareness dwells on thoughts of the past or the future, change is experienced, as there is a comparison to our present situation. Birthdays are pivot points from which we look back or look ahead. The same can be extended to every moment. If our awareness does not stray more than a few moments ahead or behind, we create a safe zone where unhappiness or negativity cannot enter. We don’t have to go far to re enter this safe zone. Just as we are surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones on our birthdays we are have the entirety of creation present in every moment that we are alive. Being aware of the inclusiveness of every moment creates a sense of camaraderie that cannot be broken if we don’t stray into the past or future. This higher awareness is a new birth and the future generation will hold ours in gratitude for the peace that ensues from it.