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Embracing Life

Is this the day, Little Bird?

The origin of the little bird follows a piece of advice from the Buddhist tradition:

“Every day, ask the little bird on your shoulder, ‘Is today the day I die?  Am I ready?  Am I doing all I need to do?  Am I being the person I want to be?’

This idea reminds us of the coming of death. It tells us that death is inevitable, and unpredictable. This could be the last day of life as we know it, our last opportunity to be truly “me”. The purpose of this imaginary companion, the bird on our shoulder, is to make sure we NEVER lose sight of death, so we can truly live our LIFE!  Life is not a rehearsal!

The little bird invites us to answer the BIG questions on a daily basis:

  • Am I being authentically “me” today, or just following a path someone else has laid out for me?
  • Am I satisfied with my relationships to those closest to me, or am I leaving important things unsaid or undone?
  • What things are most deserving of my limited resources of time and attention today?
  • Am I honouring my body today, attending to its needs, or am I using my body as a tool?
  • Will I practice today the values that I have sought to live by, such as courage, compassion, honesty?

The little bird may prompt us to major changes – or just to live our normal routine with a new awareness.

Early one morning a neighbour of the botanist-monk Gregor Mendel saw him weeding his favourite pea plants, and called out to him, “Brother Gregor, if you knew today was your last day on earth, what would you be doing now?”  Expecting him to respond that he would be praying or doing some other pious work, the neighbour was surprised when Mendel simply answered, “If today were my last day on earth I would still be here weeding my pea plants.”

What next?  The little bird says to go check out the Bucket List function.  

It’s a simple, but profound tool to help you make your precious days on earth meaningful and fun.