Yunmen said, “I don’t ask you about before awakening, say something about after awakening.” He answered himself saying, “Every day is a good day.”
The prospect of every day being a good day is attractive. Equanimity in the midst of chaos sounds like a preferred way for things to go. It is not uncommon to think that after awakening everything is going to be fine, no more troubles, no more problems. Attaining Nirvana, paradise, is the goal, right? Depends on what Nirvana means to you.
Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth are the letters from the Archangel Satan reporting back to God about his creation. One thing that puzzles him is the way humans think of heaven. When they are alive, they do not look forward to the experience of spending Sunday in church. However, Satan notes, their conception of heaven seems to be an eternal Sabbath, with angels singing and church bells ringing.
More recently, and similarly, David Byrne writes in his song Heaven, “Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens.” If nothing ever happens, nothing bad can happen, is that Heaven? The path of meditation is sometimes called the middle way. In pursuit of the ‘middle’ it can be practiced in such a way as to cut the highs and lows off of life, leaving nothing but the middle, which is a dead way to live. There are less traumas, but less life too, and that itself is a trauma.
Yunmen’s good day is not a day when nothing bad happens, when nothing unwanted happens, when there are no fires and no smoke. It is the whole enchilada, containing it all. Our meditation practice gives us access to a doorway out of our small, safe, constructed life into something larger, and that’s good.