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Getting Up in the Morning

I had a nice conversation recently with a 91-year-old gentleman whom I have known for some time. 

I hadn’t seen him in a while and I asked how he was doing. He said, “After I get up in the morning, I have all these aches and pains and health issues, but other than that, I am OK.”  We laughed and I think we can all relate to that feeling, especially as we get older. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be a struggle if you have lower back pain or other ailments.  

I replied, “But at least you got up, you woke up,” implying that the alternative is that if we don’t get up, we don’t wake up in the morning.  

I could see the light go on in his face and he said, “That is very profound.” I don’t consider my statement necessarily profound, but I think that we often take the simple fact of waking up in the morning for granted.  

Life is a gift. To wake up in the morning is to be given the gift of life for another day, even with our aches and pains, our issues and challenges of life.  

There are some who dread getting up in the morning. They might be facing real challenges — marital or family issues, work issues, or even a mental health issue like depression. For someone who faces depression, from what I understand, just getting out of bed in the morning to get dressed and to face another day is a real challenge. Some who face depression spend days and days lying in bed, not being able to get up and face the day.   

No matter what challenges we might face in life, I think that Buddhism is trying to awaken us to the fact that to wake up to another day of life is something we should not take for granted, but is something to be truly grateful for each and every day.  

Whether a person is 9 or 90 years old, it applies to all of us equally. The 9-year-old has so much to live for. To wake up means they get to go to school, learn new things, maybe play sports, and be with their friends. The 90-year-old gets to live another day, to see old friends, maybe to see their grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or just savor a hot breakfast and a cup of coffee with your husband or wife of 50 or 60 years.  

Yes, it is hard to get out of bed in the morning sometimes, but when we open our eyes, shouldn’t our first reaction be, “Hey, I woke up! I am still alive. I get to live another day. Namandabutsu.”  

After that, we can complain about our aches and pains, politics, the economy, or whatever we want to complain about. But our first reaction should be, “I woke up!  How about that. Namandabutsu.” 

If we start our day that way, maybe our aches and pains won’t bother us quite as much. Maybe we will find a way to resolve the conflict in our life, whether it is marital, family, work, or whatever. If one lives a life of gratitude, then the things we normally want to complain about don’t seem quite as overwhelming to us. We might even find that such idle complaints fall away and even disappear from our life. They are replaced by more moments of feeling gratitude, joy, appreciation, and fulfillment.

There is a famous Zen saying, “Ichigo-Ichie,” which means something like, “Every day is like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” We have no guarantee that there is a tomorrow for us. Today could be the last day of our life. It is also like the first day of our life, something to be lived fresh and new.  

As we age and find ourselves with more aches and pains and health issues, may we find ourselves able to say to ourselves when we wake up, “Hey, I got up. I am still alive. I get to live another day. Namandabutsu.” 


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