“One Day at a Time” Isn’t Good Enough

When I named this journal “Live This 1”, I wanted to underscore the essential criticality of living now— this one hour, this one day, this one minute.

The idea is hardly novel. It’s thousands of years old. There is a Zen proverb, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”

More recently, the 20th century philosopher Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.” Sage advice indeed.

“Live this 1” is a simple admonition to myself to “Pay attention, dammit.” As a cancer patient, this is of paramount importance to me.

To live with intention. To think about the fragments of days that comprise our existence. That does not mean that I have to run around the world, seeing every sight and tasting every bite (although that’s not out of the question). It means that if it is within my control, I want to guide how this day, this hour, this moment will unfold.

If I can’t choose, I need to observe, listen and experience the sensations. It doesn’t mean that there are no ordinary days; those days that are work and chores and television. It means that when those happen, it’s because I chose that. So many days pass unremarkably, and I’m saddened when I can’t recall their experiences or meanings.

I’m not advocating some cheese-laden business-book top-ten list of tactics to make you powerful or successful. Nor am I espousing a fluffy new age enlightenment mantra. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, it’s just not me. I’m simply trying not to miss the precious gift of 86,400 seconds in this planetary rotation. I don’t know how many days I have left, nor do you. A former colleague had the simple phrase, “Be Here Now” tattooed on his forearm. It’s a great thought to keep in mind, even if you don’t permanently ink it.

There is an iconic phrase, “One day at a time”. This sentiment is very popular with AA, which is arguably one of the most successful personal help programs ever. And it’s an excellent message if you’re working to get through the day without succumbing to an addictive behavior. I’m thrilled that so many people have been successful with that mantra. But it’s not good enough for me.

Because I don’t want to just cope with today. I don’t want to simply survive today unscathed. From my vantage point, some well-earned scrapes and aches are okay, even welcomed. So let’s have an adventure, build, or paint, or maybe just read a book in the sun. You see, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s on purpose.

There is another important thing I haven’t mentioned yet: compassion, kindness, love — pick the word you like best. Just don’t forget it.

Compassion, Kindness, Love

While we seek to wholly embrace this one day, it is essential that we do so with an open heart and mind. We must realize that our actions often affect other people, and inconsiderate actions may hurt them. In hurting others, we hurt ourselves. It’s far better for our emotional well-being to help and nurture.

When I say love, I obviously don’t mean romantic love, or even the familial attachment we have for our children and siblings. I mean basic human compassion, of the ‘love thy neighbor’ variety. Religious and historical texts including the Christian Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Quran all have verses entreating the followers to recognize that we are all the same species. So be excellent to each other, and do please choose your actions accordingly.

It’s not too much of a stretch to assert that the Dalai Lama is the world’s highest living authority on kindness and compassion. Reading the words he’s written on this topic (and many others) is an uplifting way to spend an afternoon.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. — Dalai Lama

Live This One Day. Don’t just endure it. Embrace it, squeeze all the joy you can from it, and give it to someone you love.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I want to go for a walk by the waterfall.
It’s a beautiful day and I’d hate to waste it. Namaste.

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