My family loves to play a wonderful interactive board game in which each player anonymously writes their answer to statements read out loud from a card. The reader then shares all the answers, and each player has a turn at guessing who wrote which response. My parents recently played this game with my daughter, her friend and myself (a first for my 92 year old father). His answer to “Things… I dream about” was both funny and poignant. He wrote, “I dream about waking up.” Why is it that in our complacency we generally fail to awake to each new day with an acute awareness and appreciation for it? Sadly, it sometimes takes learning about a loved one’s terminal, observing a horrific car accident or attending a funeral to be nudged and reminded of the exquisiteness of life.
Many opportunities to harvest this appreciation and to make a fresh start each day are available to us from the minutiae of daily life to grander life events. Interestingly, in the span of one year, our body mass is recreated with new cells as we produce approximately fifty to seventy billion cells each day. So in essence, we continually experience a fresh new reproduction of our old self and our new cells have a fresh start. Autumn is a transitional season changing from summer to winter defined by new beginnings. We observe the summer’s green hues fade, replaced by the vibrant colours of red, yellow and orange. The magnificent colorful leaves eventually fall from deciduous trees and the new cool feeling of winter arrives. We are also keenly aware of the transformation from the easier summer manner of living to the more hectic pace of September as kids return to school, we sign up for new programs and our calendars fill up.
The Jewish New Year which takes place in September, is a time of reflection providing us with a renewed opportunity to unlock more of our potential for Jewish tradition teaches that God began with one person to teach us about the potential inherent in each of us. And as the year begins with focusing on that, we realize that we have the ability to have an impact on the world. We can ponder the simple questions: How can I actualize more of my potential? How can I contribute, even in a small way, to make a difference in someone else’s life or to make the world a better place?” As we reflect on these significant questions we can also recall that each new day provides us with a fresh start to implement change.
If awareness is what is desired, one can choose to consciously greet each morning as a new beginning and carry out morning rituals to foster this awakening. To fully relish the experience of a favorite morning ritual, I often close my eyes as I take the first sip of coffee, enjoying its warmth, the taste and aroma. My sigh, like the purring of a cat, is one of pure contentment. Regardless of what lies ahead, I welcome the new day with a simple pleasure and with appreciation for it. In these times I am fully focused on the existing moment. When we are cognizant of the importance of remaining aware and being present we are more able to experience the fullness of the moment. And as we become more proficient at noticing when we zone out, we become better at developing our ability to return to the moment, and to restarting all day long. In fact, yoga and mindfulness is about beginning again and again.
When we notice and savor the preciousness of each moment or as many as we remember to, we are realizing the Latin aphorism, “carpe diem” or to “seize the day” and/or a certain moment in time. A more literal translation of “carpe diem” would be “Pluck the day as it is ripe.” When we pluck it or enjoy the moment, we are seizing it bit-by-bit or bite-by-bite, and as we practice the bites become bigger and more frequent. We feel alive. What we do in life we bring to the mat and what we learn on the mat we carry into our life.
Yoga practice takes us to a place of inner calm and stillness and leaves us with a sense of wellbeing. During practice, authentic heartfelt experiences may occur for the asanas or postures help to ground us in the present and soften our heart while the breath anchors us in the moment and each cycle of breath begins anew. Staying with the asana or pose or with the breath is difficult and as I meet the challenges of practice, I either succeed or fail. It is difficult but not too difficult and it does get better.
Each and every time on the mat is a truly different experience as is each repetition of an asana or pose. Thus each practice is absolutely new at each moment with present, mindful awareness. As I practice santosha, or contentment, happiness flows. As I sit in gratitude, I feel a sense of abundance. And as I honour the yoga lineage, my teachers, and my yoga by remaining committed to my practice throughout my lifetime – in spite of the unexpected – I develop my ability to remain in the moment, start fresh, seize the day and embrace and appreciate the beauty of life.
“Dream as if you will live forever; Live as if you will die today.” ― James Dean
“Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the Green Earth in the present moment. To appreciate the peace and the Beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us, in the world and in nature. And within us — in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; It is a matter of practice.”
— Thich Nhat Han