Recently, I have been following an online meditation series through the meditation app I use. Initially I downloaded the app just for a timer with an occasional chime – so much better than using the timer on my phone that either rings with a horrible tone or, mysteriously, declines to ring at all, just ticking down past zero into negative time.
Anyway, after downloading the app I got sucked into the guided meditations it offers. Some of them are helpful. Many of them are annoying. And that’s fine because then I go back to the timer the app provides and use that instead, with often better results. But now I’ve gotten sucked into a 30-day series of guided meditations: a new one every day so you don’t get bored meditating. And to really keep you from getting bored meditating, the host – who seems like a nice, well-intentioned person who just wants to help people – chatters through the meditation, telling stories and giving advice.
This looks not like a meditation.
Yesterday’s topic, though, kind of woke me up and I found it useful.
The topic was: what would you do if you woke up and knew this was your last day on earth?
I reflected. If I had more notice than waking up and discovering it this morning, the answer was simple: I’d go back to Antarctica, the most beautiful place on earth, and just sit in awe.
But discovering it is my last day in the morning wouldn’t leave me enough time to get to Antarctica from here – I have no intention of choosing to spend my last day on earth in airports and on airplanes.
So then my mind moved to things I could do locally. I would have to convince my husband to take the day off from work – without telling him why because otherwise I’d ruin his day and that would ruin my day – and then spend the day in Central Park, walking among the trees and sitting on top of the great hill at the northern end of the park, the one with the open space at the top, where the wind blows your hair. And take a ferry to get out on the water, maybe out to Rockaway. I’d call my sister, and spend time with friends. I’d have a great meal, something delicious. And maybe go to the Met and view my favorite piece in the Roman wing, or to the Natural History Museum and stand below the blue whale. I’d listen to Dawn Upshaw sing Gorecki’s Symphony No 3, a piece of music that is so beautiful that it feels like magic.
And here is the funny thing: none of these things are inaccessible to me any day of my life. I could, if I made it a priority, walk in Central Park every day, or at least Madison Park at lunch time on days when I’m working. I can take a ferry. I can call my sister – who I haven’t spoken to in over a month because my life feels too overwhelming sometimes. I could call my friends. I could make reservations for a transcendent meal – this is NYC, transcendent meals are available all around us, and my standards for transcendent food are not as high as other people’s. I could go to a museum, they’re open. I could play Dawn Upshaw’s CD or load it digitally on my phone.
The things that make me happy – so happy that I would choose them as the way to spend my last day on earth – are highly accessible.
Yet I choose not to reach out to them.
Instead I spend time doing things that I feel like I should do. Or falling into habitual things like doom-scrolling or watching TV. Or eating noodles with some sauce that is quick and easy to make or take out food or pizza – which we actually ordered three times one week not long ago. Or working through lunch, hunched over my desk like an animal, shoveling food.
I’d like to say that this is not my life, but it is the life I choose to live right now, consciously or unconsciously.
When people say Bring Joy into Your Life, this is what they are saying: don’t just live the life you have fallen into – add in the little things that bring you joy.
Like listening to Dawn Upshaw.
So what would you do, if you woke up this morning and knew it was your last day on earth?
And why aren’t you doing it?