"If you're reading this... Congratulations, you're alive. If that's not something to smile about, then I don't know what is." -- Chad Sugg
Last Saturday, as I navigated my way through the frenzied masses who were on a mission to get their Christmas shopping done and take advantage of some "super sales," I had an interesting epiphany: While shopping for a unique gift for a close friend, I became aware of one special gift that had no price tag -- it wasn't for sale, even at any price. But first, the back-story:
What was going on that moment at the mall was an out-picturing of what was going on in my head -- I caught myself red-handed not practicing what I preach. If you have known me for any time, you know that I am a big proponent of mindfulness, which is the practice of aligning one's mind with their body by being present in the moment. For me, the practice is about consciously entering into the flow of life and feeling the joy of being alive, irrespective of where I am or what I am doing -- and this includes the mall. I have to admit that at that moment, my mind was missing in action, on reconnaissance somewhere in the frenzy far out in front of where my body was, looking for my friend's gift. It is safe to say I definitely was not "enjoying life" in the moment.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I get so caught up in the frenzy of the day that I forget what a gift it is to have a life at all. It's easy to become entangled in the things that seem to demand so much of our attention just to get through the day -- and with the holidays fast approaching, it simply exacerbates the problem. No doubt we are all very busy from the time we get up in the morning to the time we retire at night; it's called "doing" life. The question to ponder is how much time do we spend on autopilot taking the life we are "doing" for granted? Most of us trudge on daily, seldom giving a second thought about what a blessing it is that our soul has a home in which to live, this garment we call a body.
There is a beautiful parable that comes from the East about appreciating the precious gift of life: Imagine a solid granite mountain a mile high. Now imagine a small bird with a silk scarf in its beak... dragging the scarf along the ridge of mountain, until finally the mountain is worn down to the ground. While it may take some creative stretching of your imagination, consider the idea that as long as it takes for the bird to wear down the mountain is how often one soul receives the gift of a human body.
Clearly, this is a metaphor, however, if it causes you to pause just for a moment and think about it, the parable has done what it was meant to do -- to encourage you to take time to contemplate the fact that your life is a pearl of great price; in other words, when you stop to really consider it, the gift you have been freely given has a value beyond measure. One might ask, what is the "practical" value in taking precious time out of my busy day to appreciate the gift of my life? How will it change things for me in the real world? The answer is not complicated at all. With appreciation of the gift of life comes a shift in perspective: To understand what I mean, just ask yourself, "Is there any amount of money I would take in exchange for my next breath?" More than likely, the answer is "no." This awareness alone will help you value yourself more and, in the process, be more mindful of how you spend your precious time. It will also help you appreciate the gift of life that has been freely given to your loved ones, which so generously spills over into your own life.
Stopping to appreciate the gift of life itself is a game changer. As you consciously look into the mystery and the miracle of the gift that has been so freely given to you, you may naturally begin to ask yourself, "How then shall I honor the Giver of the gift today?" How you answer that question will be found in your actions -- the manner in which how mindfully you engage in using the gift. Not taking it for granted is a beautiful place to begin.
The practice then is to consciously pause throughout the day, irrespective of where you are or what you may be doing, and take an intentional, deep breath. Then smile, and just for a brief moment, feel the joy of having the privilege of being alive. This means no "yeah, but"s or qualifying it based on current circumstances -- just synch your mind with your body and allow yourself to be one with the greatest gift you've ever been given: Your life is a pearl of great price, its value is beyond measure. That makes you a very wealthy person -- and that really is something to smile about, even at the mall.
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