Every Day is a Good Day!
This koan from Yunmen has long been one of my favorites. I even have a bit of it (GUD DAE) on my license plate. The 15th of the month is code for the full moon (think lunar calendar), which is often considered to be code for enlightenment. So Yunmen seems to be asking, “Say something about what it’s like after you’ve woken up,” and answering, “Every day is a good day.”
I imagine that awakening experiences happen along a continuum, from little “ah ha,” moments I think of as micro-awakenings, to big, impactful, “I’ll never see the world in quite the same way again,” experiences. And I think that the practice of paying attention serves to help me be aware of these experiences as they occur. I’ve always considered this to be a good thing.
But now I’m noticing a new wrinkle. I think we’ve all been waking up, at our own pace, to reality of Covid-19. Because of my exposure (figurative, not literal) to the problem at work, I think I arrived at my awakening that the world was facing serious disruption a little sooner than most in this country. That was uncomfortable. But what was most uncomfortable was being awakened to the truth I, my family, my community, my country, my planet seem to be entering into a time of great uncertainty, and quite possibly, a lot of suffering. The truth is that we’re always on the precipice; that these disruptive moments can come upon us at any time, but ignoring this fact is both easy and seductive. For me, it’s the arrival of this moment that has forced the awakening.
And, to be honest, it’s anxiety inducing. I notice myself looking for things to grab onto to give me a sense of certainty. I received the news that I would not, for now, need to physically work shifts in a hospital command center, and the news of the Bay Area shelter in place orders, within 30 minutes of each other last Monday. I immediately felt a sense of relief. Two things I’d been uncertain about were now resolved. So this is what it’s like after the 15th day; I find myself grasping for toeholds of certainly, to help mitigate the reality that I’m not in control and anything could happen. There’s a part of me that really wants to go back to sleep.
So how is this a good day? Does a good day require that I feel good? That I not be worried? I guess not. I think I’m learning a lot about myself, my tendencies, my tolerances. I’m learning about my capacity for leadership at home and at work during challenging times. I’m witnessing the realities of these times create positive disruption and innovation in a way that doesn’t seem to happen in normal times. I’m getting to witness really amazing people do selfless, life saving work with great poise and grace. And there are simply more moments when my heart opens. Good day? Yes, good enough.