The big day…today

me and my very fun grandmother Maude, 51 years ago

I looked at my calendar yesterday evening and it said that today was the Buddhist holiday, Nirvana Day (that is one great name for a holiday!)

“On Nirvana Day, Buddhists think about their lives and how they can work towards gaining the perfect peace of Nirvana. They remember friends or relations who have recently died and reflect on the fact that death is a part of life for everyone.The idea that nothing stays the same is central to Buddhism. Buddhists believe that loss and change are things to be accepted rather than causes of sadness….”. (from a BBC website describing the holiday)

A couple of years ago, a friend asked me to help him clean out his dad’s house. His father had just passed on and he had been a pack-rat (his son’s words!). But more than that, he had not even enjoyed the things that he’d saved. Many of the gifts he’d received over his long life, were still in the boxes that they came in; never used, never worn, packed away for some distant date when there would be an occassion big enough to warrant bringing them out. That day never came. Maybe no single day seemed important enough. They didn’t bring him joy, and his son said that the few times he asked if he could have something, his father became angry and defensive, so he didn’t even get the pleasure of seeing his son enjoy them. As we went through the boxes, many had started to deteriorate, mice had gotten into some and ruined them…

There’s a lot of talk about saving for retirement, going without now, so at some perfect time in the future, you can enjoy yourself, and I am not knocking saving and planning, but none of us knows the span of our lives here. When I find myself dismissing what I consider the mundane moments, I have to keep reminding myself that this is life. It is a series of little steps. Whether I am sitting here writing, opening my mailbox and finding a large check (or a bill), cleaning the kitty litter, saying yes to a “big” invitation, I am still in the moment, breathing in and breathing out. Right now. This is the big occasion.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau

36 thoughts on “The big day…today

  1. So true Mary….I loved what you wrote today and I try to do that although at times I do get sidetracked. You helped put me back on track and for that I thank you!

    Julie in Iowa

  2. Mary, I find one of the hardest things I do in life is to live in the moment. I worry about the future, where I’ll put myself or ourselves, will I have enough money to last my lifetime and leave something for my children to give them a leg up in life. I am the age of my mother when she worried about the same thing…would she have enough money to live out her life not knowing how long that would be. Having grown up ‘in the church’, having done all the things one does as a member of a congregation in assuming jobs within it, I found later in life I could no longer subscribe to organized religion. Through my studies in early cultures and religion at art college I found myself drawn to Buddhism. It made sense to me personally and spiritually. And yet, I step on bugs. Nor can I subscribe entirely to the entire concept of this intellectual thought because I am an earthling and I have not the strength required to meet this form of thought. But it seems of all concepts the most meaningful way of looking at life. Live for today and live in the moment. Your message this morning is a good reminder of this. I try, not always successfully.
    Thank you, Mary.

    SandyP in Canada

    • I think you’re doing a lot Sandy, because when we try, we are putting our intention into practice. And what more can we expect of ourselves if it is done with gentle purpose and focus? We try, we live, meeting each day and moment in full awareness, – I will think of you on my walk this morning. Love from Arizona!

  3. Hi Mary,
    I have a great little sign on the corner of my dresser – I see it every morning – a good reminder……

    LIFE HAPPENS – MAKE TIME TO LIVE IT

    so true and relative!

  4. I love your blog, Mary.
    I’ve always been fascinated by the image of a monk on his hands and knees scrubbing the temple floor with a toothbrush, seeking nirvana. When I was younger I could not make sense of this. Now I ‘get it’ [with my intellect]: nirvana is a state of mind (or mindlessness) – always possible with complete presence in what ever one is doing. It is so easy to see it now, but so difficult to achieve.

  5. Nirvana Day…I’d like to share a story.
    A very close Buddhist friend died this past January and for no apparent reason I was acutely missing her physical presence yesterday. My heart was aching, but open, and she came right into my mind, almost audibly, and we had a great visit. She reminded me that we are both doing exactly what what we need to be doing, right now. She also pointed out that my life experience was unfolding perfectly and I was foolish to miss even a moment of it, including the sadness and grief, but there is so much more also.
    My mind got quiet and the ache transformed into realizing how much she is still here with me as a loving presence, and how much I don’t want to miss the experiences and opportunity to connect with all of the amazing people I’ll meet today and every day on this life journey. The message was basically “LET GO AND PAY ATTENTION! LOOK! SOMETHING IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW! Through that lens, the ordinary day seemed perfect, just as it showed up. What a great gift.

    • Wonderful comment, Barbara. A truly inspiring ‘flesh-out’ of Mary’s post. Thanks so much for telling your story.

    • Your post truly made me realize the importance of slowing down, stopping and listening. So beautifully stated.

  6. Great blog today Mary. My friends’ Mum passed away 12 years ago and like your friends’ Dad, she found so many lovely things tucked away for ‘that special occasion’ which never came. She and I made a pact that day that we would not save things for best, but enjoy them now. Shame it takes such an event to make us realise that so yours is a good message to send out. A cliche, but life is not a dress rehearsal is so very true.

  7. Thank You Mary for that beautiful message. I never knew about Nirvana Day but I do now. It is so true that we should all live in the moment and not worry so much about what will happen in the future.

  8. Wonderful post Mary and great comments this morning. Nirvana day is a good time to reinvent ourselves, escape into relaxation and find tranquility away from daily routines.

  9. Don’t live in the past; it’s gone. Tomorrow is not here yet! Today is a gift; that’s why it’s called – the present!

  10. I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh a couple of years ago – a Buddhist monk who has many many wonderful books on mindfulness, on living in the present moment – he describes mindfulness as “the energy that helps us to be there one hundred percent. It is the energy of your true presence.” Here is a link to 127 quotes of his:
    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/9074.Thich_Nhat_Hanh
    For my son’s birthday I ordered his “Your True Home, the everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh” – there are 365 pages, one for each day of the year, – glancing through it I may order another one for myself.
    Enjoy this eighth day of February everyone.

  11. I love every single line, thought, and message in your post today Mary! At first, after reading your thought that “maybe no single day seemed important enough”, I felt momentary sadness. What a wake up call! Everyday life, even the mundane, is our inspiration. Our life experiences, routine and spontaneous, are causes to celebrate. Today IS the big occasion. You know how we feel kind of special, carefree, an almost ‘anything goes’ kind of attitude on our birthday? Sometimes we give ourselves permission to do “anything we want” on that one day of the year and not let anything bother us…why not approach every single day as our birth day! Cause it really is…

    Great picture of you and your grandmother!

  12. Happy Nirvana Day. Great post. It is important to remember the value of “being” unattached to “doing”. On Monday I was stacking wood and was thinking about the Buddhist story of the monk being questioned about what he did before enlightenment. His answer…”stacked wood, carried water”. When asked what he did after enlightenment his answer …”stacked wood, carried water”. There is the potential for grace in every moment, waking up in the morning is an occasion. I am always and forever trying to be in the present. And I thoroughly enjoyed stacking the wood on Monday.

  13. This poem came to mind walking out in the desert this morning, seeing the most amazing little flower sprouting out of a dead cactus. The life force is amazing, silently at work, day by day, breath by breath –

    “Flower in the crannied wall” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Flower in the crannied wall,
    I pluck you out of the crannies,
    I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
    Little flower -but if I could understand
    What you are, root and all, and all in all,
    I should know what God and man is.
    _____________________________

    When we begin yoga class my teacher often says as we sit quietly, ‘Receive your breath’ – – what we take so for granted, our breath, breathing unconsciously all day long, can become an act of awareness and gratitude. Also she reminds us that every single breath you have ever taken has led you to this moment, and this breath.
    Receive your breath. Blessings

  14. Right before I opened my mail, and read your blog, I had been talking about this very same subject with my father!!!! It hit so close to home reading your post after speaking with him at this time, that I was bowled over!!!!! I think the Universe is trying to send me a message.
    Or rather, confirm a choice; recently I have given permission to myself to have less fear for the future and more joy and presence for the now, that I have begun living with more intent for what I’m doing here in this moment!!! And my life has become less burdensome, less anxiety ridden because of that choice. And the result, utter bliss!

  15. My mom got this same message at one point not long ago. Shes 78 and uses the good silver and china every day now. As she says ‘what am I saving it for?” And if it gets broken, oh well, you can only use one plate or bowl at a time anyway, who needs a set for 12?
    So I use the good linens, the china, wear a nice blouse to the grocery store, working on making my everyday life the special days everyday.
    Sure there is the argument, well if you dont save it for the special days, what makes them special? But if you dont have ‘special days’ then you have to make your own.
    My mom has also been giving us kids many of the things she loves, might as well enjoy them now, she gets a kick out of seeing her treasures in a new spot in my home. I feel sorry for the son in your story. Withholding is never a good move. My dad was the same in some ways.
    Well good message for today, thanks for it!

  16. It seems befitting on Nirvana Day : Namaste to one and all on the ‘Farm’.
    —Deb, Happy Birthday and re-birth day; it seems that No day is just ordinary!

  17. Wonderful, mindful post Mary! Barbara, what a gift indeed your dear friend sent you, and Happy Birthday Deb! great comments by all today.

  18. Amen to keeping it in the day. Let’s hear it for the mundane! It’s made some of my sweetest memories.
    I love your photo Mary. My Grand-dau(12yrs.) and two of her little friends stopped by today. They were so funny.(You know those tween yrs.) I had 15 min. to get to the bank, but thought it out. How lucky I am to have a grand-dau. who cares about me enough to visit. The bank wasn’t going anywhere.It’ll be there tomorrow. So I lived in that moment of time and enjoyed the kids.I’m so glad I did. I hope she thinks of me like you thought of your Grandmother. What a gift.
    PS: When ea. of my parents died and we cleaned out their things, both had drawers full of opened but returned to their boxes Christmas gifts.It was eye opening to realize how they led their lives.

  19. Mary,
    The quote was particularly useful for me, ‘Launch yourself on every wave,’ showing me that while simple awareness is deeply valuable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s passive. I’m trying to make some big decisions, so I have copied that quote out and put it on my desk bulletin board where I can see it. Perfect timing!

  20. I haven’t had time to read this YET …can’t wait to find a quiet minute to enjoy
    reading it
    Just wanted to share this quote with everyone
    Remember Today is the Tomorrow you worried about Yesterday

    My Dad used to always say to me ,,,,,,,,,when I asked WHAT IF ?
    WHAT IF……WHAT IF …….Never happens !!!!

    CC

  21. As a long-time Buddhist, I am still working with the simplest teachings such as these; the realization that everything will change, nothing is permanent, is the current topic of my daily contemplation (which I do prior to formal meditation).
    When I first took up this routine, a few months ago, just a couple days into it I was on the way to work and got behind a car with a single bumper sticker that I had not seen before. It simply said “Shift happens”. Ziiiiinnnnnnng! Perfect!

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