As I watched the rare “super moon” eclipse last night, I felt lucky to be able to catch such a unique spectacle on a clear night. Looking up into the night sky, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe that stemmed from the recognition of my place in the cosmos, on this planet, in a solar system on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, in an infinite universe. Then inevitably, I looked back down at the ground, and again saw the familiar dirt below my feet. There was a feeling of profound confusion as I again struggled to come to terms with the fact that I will one day have to give my body back to the Earth from which it came.
To be caught between the juxtaposition of the infinite in the sky above me, and the finite below my feet; that is the human experience.
After a few close calls, I am inclined to wonder if I may really be here for a reason. After one such incident, I woke up into already being awake and standing on the side of the road after a car accident in August 2011 that left me with a bruise on my brain.
For seven weeks, a subdural hematoma put me at serious risk of having a stroke, or worse. During this dark period, as my short term memory and mental agility gradually returned, I came to terms with some of my worst fears; a stroke, brain surgery, and the heartbreaking end to my love affair with the sport of swimming, or anything athletic. I recognised that instead of training for the London Olympics, I could be training just to be able to walk again.
Four years ago, on September 26, the day of my last brain scan, the bruise was seen to have healed of its own accord. It was only after being faced with the prospects of losing everything that I truly appreciated the limitless potential of what that it meant to have regained my health and life.
Everything was going to be ok. The worried mind that had been relentlessly tormenting me with my worst fears for the past seven weeks was now suddenly silenced. I remember walking out of the hospital about two inches off the ground: I could feel the life in me when I breathed, all of the colours were a little brighter, sounds a little sharper, my food had never tasted better; I had never felt more alive.
I will continue to commemorate this day each year for as long as I live. It was in many ways a second birthday. However, unlike a birthday that is all about you, an “alive day” is simply a celebration of gratitude for life and health that I try to share with friends, including you.
In many ways, the notion of an “alive day” is a reminder of what is really important in life. Money is a necessary evil, but it is so common to confuse money for wealth by constantly struggling to get more money instead of more life, and the love and experience that it brings with it. Sadly, for many, it is only at the end of their miserable lives, having never lived, that they realise their folly.
What exactly is being alive anyway? It’s the recognition of the “I” at the centre of experience which makes for experiencing. This experiencing is the one constant of all experiences; the constant in of all of life. An “alive day” is a wake up call to get out of our mind and back into the actual experiencing of life, to realise that each moment is perfect, even when it includes your desire to change things.
Comparison is the enemy of happiness; nothing is lacking. The notion of a thing that could be lacking is simply a thought in the mind. Even the notion of you as a separate bag of skin that lacks something is just another thought in the mind and not reality. When you recognise the patterns behind thoughts, you will notice that the more frequently thoughts pertain to the idea of an individual thinker of thoughts, the more closely tied the rest of the thoughts become to the preservation of this idea of a separate thinker of thoughts. In reality, you never actually think, but are just the observer of thoughts. Life happens here and now, as your attention continually brings it into your consciousness, and not in the mind.
I realise that I am not the only person with an “alive day”. There are all kinds of survivors out there, who after having come face to face with losing everything, are now free to fully appreciate life.
For those of you who haven’t, and I hope you never need alive days, this is a wake up call. Save yourself the stress, the fear, the pain and suffering, and start to make your existence a daily celebration of gratitude for this strange human experience of being caught between the infinite and the finite, and everything that it brings in.