Rejuvenating Routine: End-of-Semester Exam Stress
It is the time of the semester where we bury our heads in thick textbooks and study (over-) diligently for our final exams. And in this period of excessive stress and severe lack of sleep, let's interrupt our terribly unhealthy lifestyles. Let's rejuvenate routine.
Recently, I've fallen in love with Paulo Coehlo's "Manuscript Found in Accra". And I'm going to share with you one of the most powerful passages of the book which resonates with me deeply (adapted, abridged):
"Tomorrow, when the sun rises, all you have to say to yourselves is:
"I am going to think of this day as the first day of my life."
I will look on the members of my family with surprise and amazement, glad to discover they are by my side, silently sharing that much talked about but little understood thing called love.
I will pass a beggar, who will ask me for money. I might give it to him, or I might walk past him, thinking that he will only spend it on drink. As I do, I will hear his insults and understand that it is simply his way of communicating with me.
I will look at everything and everyone as if for the first time, especially the small things that I have grown used to, quite forgetting the magic surrounding them.
Instead of noting down things I'm unlikely to forget on the piece of parchment I always carry with me, I will write a poem. Even if I have never written one before and even if I never do so again, I will at least know that I once had the courage to put my feelings into words.
May everything my hand touches and my eyes see and my mouth tastes be different, but the same. That way, all those things will cease to be still and instead will explain to me why they have been with me for such a long time; they will reveal to me the miracle of reencountering emotions worn smooth by routine.
I will not complain about life, saying, "Everything's always the same and I can do nothing to change it." Because I am living this day as if it were my first, and while it lasts, I will discover things that I did not even know were there.
Even though I have walked past the same places countless times before and said "Good morning" to the same people, today's "Good morning" will be different. It will be a form of blessing in the hope that everyone I speak to will understand the importance of being alive, even when tragedy is threatening to engulf us.
May I look at myself as if this were the first time I had ever been in contact with my own body and my own soul.
May I be capable of accepting myself as I am: a person who walks and feels and talks like anyone else, but who, despite his faults, is also brave.
Even if this is to be my last day on Earth, I will enjoy it to the fullest, because I will live it with the innocence of a child, as if I were doing everything for the first time."
At this time of the year when our souls may be heavy with fear and dread for our final exams, may we have the ability to step out of the ever-narrowing box of fear that suffocates us and see, feel and experience everything as if for the first time. May we anchor ourselves deeply in gratitude; every day that we are alive is not a given, but a blessing. There is no set rule that determines that you will live a long life, or a really short one. No one knows when the day we wake up will be our last.
Yesterday as I tucked myself into bed, I was struck by a sudden awe and fear. I was in awe that I have been given thousands of wonderful days where I could wake up to beautiful sunshine and do so many things that lift my soul. To have experienced playing a sport at the national and international level, for instance, to have been given quality education, to be blessed with family members who love me unconditionally, with dearest friends who I could always have honest conversations with and be accepted for who I am.
And as I feared, I suddenly noticed my heart beating. How fragile it seemed. How every beat sounded like a miracle itself. And I was afraid that it would stop. I was afraid to die. After this wave of fear, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. And even as it was a normal night, a normal day where I went to sleep with my lights off and the room dark, I cried. Because I felt so much gratitude once more it's crazy. I am grateful even for the fear I felt. Because it reminds me how deeply I treasure life and everything I have and I am. It points me to the Now and the Next, and anchors me deeply in the direction I want to be in: the direction of Gratitude.
Be grateful that everything you now possess, gives you great comfort, and peace, and bestows upon you powerful knowledge and wisdom.
Yes, I know it's not easy to be grounded in gratitude all the time. I find it difficult too. How do we stay grounded in gratitude when obstacles keep being thrown at us? Things that threaten our interest, love, commitment and passion. There is no other way but to keep interrupting routine. To rejuvenate routine by grounding ourselves consciously, asking ourselves honest questions and daring to answer these honest questions. To not hold ourselves back from this process just because we are afraid of what we may discover. There is no one to judge us but ourselves in this quiet undertaking of self-reflection. Without this candidness and consciousness, we may lapse into the subconscious which only threatens to bring us back to the monotony of routine and 'death' and Forgetfulness.
As I type this post, I am deeply struck by emotions once more. And I feel so much love for every one of you out there, no matter who you are.
And I sincerely wish that you too, will be struck by sudden bouts of gratitude, be well interrupted from your seemingly mundane routines and rediscover the beauty of being and doing.