A Zen’s-Eye View: Slogan 41: Good in the beginning, good at the end

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When you start your day, it’s a good idea to take at least five minutes to think about what you are doing with your life, in general, and with the coming day, in particular. Instead of just launching into your shower and your first cup of tea or coffee, you could begin your day with something in mind beyond getting to work or getting through your to-do list. In particular, you could look at each day as an opportunity to deepen your spiritual awareness and to practice kindness and compassion. Zen students can practice this conscious living by sandwiching each day with meditation.

At the end of the day, before you fall asleep, instead of just flopping into bed with a book or turning out the light and settling in for sleep, it’s also a good idea to take at least five minutes to review how you realized your intention to live your life on a spiritual basis. You could begin by appreciating the times you joined your spiritual principles with the various activities and encounters that day. Then you could reflect on the times when you lost your connection to those principles and acted accordingly.

The idea is not to beat yourself up for losing awareness of your spiritual values; nor is it to give yourself a medal for being “good”. You do not need to blame yourself or to blame anyone else. The idea is simply to take note so that you can shift your energy gradually in the direction of kindness and awareness of the highest values that you want to bring into your daily life.

Living life on a spiritual basis is a lifetime journey, but that journey takes place one day at a time, one moment at a time. You cannot do anything about days gone by, and speculating about the future can be overwhelming and pointless.

But you can look at each day as a practice period, with a beginning and an end. You can realize that we create our future lives by what we think, say and do in the present moment. Each day is a new beginning. When taking stock of our thoughts, words and actions at the beginning of the day, we start our lives fresh, with a blank page, free of guilt, pride and self-recrimination. When we appraise how we have done every evening before sleep, we have a chance to learn from the day that we have just lived, and then let that day go completely.

Suggested practice: Notice how easy it is to get so caught up with your life that you never have a chance to see it in a larger perspective. What happens if you take even a little time at the beginning or end of the day to step back and look at what you are doing? Notice what makes you remember your commitment to spiritual awareness, kindness and compassion; and what makes you forget.

This column is a long series of short essays exploring the meaning of the Lojong Slogans. It is inspired by the work of Judy Lief.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information, she can be reached at 250-428-3390.