I have a life-long friend who has been very fortunate. He has had so many brushes with death in the almost 40 years I’ve known him. We often talk about how lucky he is to be alive. But he is very much alive. Partly because of all of these experiences.
This morning he texted me about yesterday’s snowstorm. It was still snowing pretty hard but he wanted to clear the first eight inches of snow away. So he got the snowblower all ready and was just about to step onto the driveway. Instead, he hesitated for just a moment, grabbed his coffee, and took a couple of sips. As he stepped out, a huge tree limb fell right where he would’ve been if he hadn’t taken that quick coffee break.
“Just another near-death experience, or as I like to call them ‘near-life’, because they remind me I’m alive.” he said.
Alive. We’re still alive. And so very lucky to be. And sometimes we move through our days without ever being mindful of the fact that we are still alive. Without being mindful and aware of the implications, the amazing scientific miracle of it all. Heart beating, lungs breathing, blood pumping, full of life! Alive!
On Sunday I was sitting through funeral services for a friend. A priest, whose English was very broken, stumbled through a eulogy for a man he’d never met. He must’ve been told that our friend was a foodie, because he rambled on almost incoherently about restaurants and other nonsense. I tapped into the dark humor of the moment. I found myself laughing on the inside, and at some point he became endearing, and then he began making perfect sense to me. He said in order to live a good life, we need three qualities. Amazement. Gratitude. And inspiration. We must be amazed, grateful, and inspired.
The loss of loved ones and our own personal near-death experiences can definitely remind us to live our lives in wonderment, and gratitude, and inspiration. The experiences slam us into momentary mindfulness. If we’re lucky, the mindfulness will stick around for a while.
I have found that the way I can accomplish this on a day to day basis, maybe even moment to moment is through something I’ll call near-breath experiences. The more I sit and meditate on the breath, the life force that flows through my body and sustains me, the more mindful I am of the fact that I’m still alive.
In all moments of the day when I am going to act or react I try to take a breath first. I remind myself of the oxygen, the energy, the life-force, the vibrancy.
No matter what is happening in the moment, whether I judge it as good or bad or pleasant or painful, I am, first and foremost, alive. I am amazed, grateful, and inspired. I am alive. And I am lucky to still be alive.
Every moment is a near-breath experience.
My earworm. Pearl Jam, I’m Still Alive.