A guided meditation on the preciousness of our next 24 hours alive and our unique place in the universe as science understands it: intelligent, self-aware beings at the end of 14 billion years’ cosmic and biological evolution.
Find yourself someplace quiet, with a seat on the floor or in a chair; legs crossed if you’re on the floor with your seat elevated, or in a chair with your legs straight down.
Straighten your spine to focus your attention. And place your hands on your knees, or your right hand atop the left with your thumbs touching.
You can half-close your eyes, but remain alert and aware. Look slightly downward, slightly open your mouth.
And just become aware of two breaths.
And then we can begin with our motivation.
Imagine that you’re just waking up. Or if you are just waking up, it’s even easier.
Think that I’ve woken up to another day alive. I’m so grateful to have this body, a safe place to sleep, a modest amount of comfort, security, family, and friends. I have everything I need to be happy.
And there’s no better thing I could be doing with these few minutes than going inward. To understand who I am beneath stimulation, stress, entertainment, and thoughts.
Getting to know the deep core of my awareness; to explore the mystery of being alive and aware right now.
And so I motivate to focus wholly inward for a few minutes, without distraction, to strengthen my best qualities and let the annoying, disturbing aspects of my mind simply fade away.
Stabilizing on the breath
And so we start with a stabilization on the breath. Bring your mind either to your nostrils or to your abdomen. At your nostrils you can feel the breath coming inward, cool, filling up your lungs. A pause, and then as your breath goes out the air coming out warmer, moister. Without changing how you breathe, simply watch your breath. And if you find that your mind moves away from your breath, just let go of the thought, the sound, the plan, the regret. It will naturally dissolve and disappear on its own if you don’t pull it forward. Let those thoughts and distractions disappear, and bring your mind gently back to the breath over and over again.
The preciousness of life
And now, for a moment reflect on my good fortune. Of course life is different for each of us, and we each face many hardships, but for a moment, let’s practice gratitude for what we have. My good fortune to be alive. To be aware. For my senses to function. To be able to appreciate the beauty of the world around me and the people in it. To have some modest level of resources: food, shelter, safety, security, education, a job, friends, and family. We don’t all have these things, and if I do, I’m extremely fortunate.
And that I’ve cultivated an interest in going beyond material gain, beyond striving, beyond competitiveness, beyond entertainment. There’s a place for all these things in life, but I’ve also realized there’s something more to life. I can feel grateful that such thoughts have arisen in my mind, that I’ve been exposed to ideas, teachers, friends who value inner happiness, who contemplate the value, mystery, and profoundness of existence that goes beyond material accumulation.
And that I’m not only curious and interested, but that I’ve made an effort to pursue inner knowledge, to read books, listen to podcasts, and to actually go on an inner adventure; to probe honestly what’s inside my mind, how to be happy, how to be of genuine benefit to others.
Think quietly about this simple gratitude for the basics of life. Basics that many can’t take for granted: people in severe poverty, war, extreme climates, suffering political, racial, and gender oppression. Or those driven by animal instincts, or even those afflicted with the competitive spotlight of extreme fame and success.
I have everything I need to be happy. Now I just need to make the effort. Strive to live your day with mindfulness of the preciousness of your life, of all you are grateful for.
And then to contemplate my connection to the universe. I’m sitting in the center of a universe 14 billion years old. With 200 trillion galaxies. 100 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Stars that are out there right now, burning, some with planets like earth circling round, a hundred million of those. Our own sun, 4 billion years old. With 3 billion years of life on earth. The scientific magic of evolution transforming simple chemicals to cells, worms, fish, snakes, dinosaurs, mammals, monkeys. And now, humanity at the tip of history, emerging one hundred thousand years ago. Then a thousand generations of humans, often struggling, dying at birth, hungry, violent, afraid.
And then I am born.
And now, despite its drawbacks, discomforts, and injustices, I’m lucky enough to live in a world safer and more abundant than it’s ever been for humans.
There’s not yet any evidence for any other life in the universe. What if humanity is the pinnacle of the entire universe’s evolution? What if we are the universe’s sole way of knowing itself?
What’s a good way to spend this day? What’s the best way to prepare my mind to be happy, to live mindfully and meaningfully?
It’s nothing more than what I’m doing right now: going inward, probing my mind, cultivating the true causes of happiness in the present moment through gratitude and self-awareness.
Rest in these thoughts for a minute, my scientific connection to all the universe and all of history, my gratefulness for being alive; how do I make the most of this day?
And now, as we come out of the meditation, dedicate any goodness, any psychological evolution to our being genuinely present and aware for the remainder of the day. To not take things personally, to see that there is truth and meaning to be gained from even painful moments of conflict. The potential to stay aware and present without mindlessly reacting. To consider our response. To see the heartfelt needs—even an underlying human beauty—beneath our own and everyone else’s everyday actions. Go into this day with an intention to be present and aware, there’s nothing else I need to be happy.
Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Stephen Butler
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio