Today is my 32nd birthday. It’s no big deal. It’s a Wednesday, and I’m at school. Later, I’m having some friends over. This weekend, I’m hanging out in Guatemala City, teaching yoga at La Alianza, packing, cleaning house, saying goodbye to my dear friends and my yoga schmoga guru at a despedida (going away party) at the U.S. Marine House on Saturday night, and doing next to nothing on Sunday.
On this day last year, I wrote a list of thirty-one things I was grateful for. I’m still grateful for all those things, and more.
But the thing I am most, most, most grateful for today and every moment of every day is this:
No matter how alone we feel, we are not alone. No matter how isolated we may wish to be, we are inherently and necessarily connected to every other being and every other thing in this universe. When we see through the illusion of the separate self, understand the depth and complexity of the story lines built all our lives around “I,” “me,” and “mine” — then and only then will we be liberated. The stories, ultimately, don’t matter. What has happened in the past got us here. The future is inevitably, continuously unfolding before us. The present, this precious moment, right here and now, is truly all there is. So live it up!
In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh (from The Heart of Understanding):
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we havea new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.
If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And wesee the wheat. We now the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.
Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.
Suppose we try toreturn one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.