Once a year we commemorate the
day we were born. Early in life, it is a day to look forward to. One gets to be
the center of attention, at least briefly, and there are presents to anticipate.
Later, many lose enthusiasm for birthdays. Birthdays remind us that we are
aging, and strangely in our culture, that is not something everyone looks
forward to. In part, the thought of aging reminds us that we are closing in on
the finish line of life.
Birthdays tend to be about ego.
For that one day, we are special. We are celebrated, separated from the herd
momentarily, and recognized as distinct for something we did based on no merit
of our own. The accomplishment of aging another year, feels to some as an empty
deed, since we didn’t do anything much to attain the goal, except to exert our
natural skill for not dying.
The less curmudgeonly among us
celebrate birthdays as a way to honor the aging person. (Right now notice your
response as you read the term aging person. Was it a little bit negative? If it
was, just note that). A birthday is an opportunity to reflect on the gift the
honored one brings to the world. It’s a time to affirm our joy in their presence
among us. Should we be short on self-esteem when it is our turn to be
celebrated, the honor may feel uncomfortable.
So, let’s consider some ways to
reflect on your own birthday. You might start with contemplating your attitudes
toward the day. You could make this a journaling opportunity. How do you feel
about the whole idea of celebrating your birthday? If there are mixed emotions,
sort them out. What are your reservations about the day? Do issues of self worth
come up? Are there issues of being loved or wanted? Does the day remind you of
celebrations gone wrong? Does the idea of aging bring you face to face with your
mortality in a way you would rather not be? Are there issues of vanity? Do you
feel inclined to lie about your age? If so, examine the thinking behind that
inclination. Also consider, who do you think you are kidding?
Once past all that thinking,
take time to sit quietly and enjoy your own presence. In one sense, a birthday
is just a day on a calendar. In another, it is a day when the planet earth is in
the same relationship with the sun as it was on the auspicious day of your
birth. This day could be an opportunity to reestablish a spiritual harmony that
was interrupted by your arrival in the world. Slip out of your ego frame of
reference, and just be the real you for a while. To do that, you need to quiet
Shift your focus to your breath.
Just watch what happens as you breathe. Likely, your breathing will slow down as
you relax. Attend to the quiet between your breaths. Notice your own awareness.
Don’t think about it, just notice it. Keep coming back to awareness of the
breath and the space between breaths. Notice that you are alive, and regardless
of how long you have been alive, that presence has not changed. Some sense of
you was there at your first breath, and it is there with you now. Look at that.
Welcome it. Celebrate with presence.
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