Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Life starts at 60

Posted on January 15, 2012 by jimparedes

It’s a new year and a new beginning. It is a cliché but it is something to ponder. Beginnings are generally good things that bring real, great hope.

My spiritual practice is defined by the idea of focusing on beginnings. There is something fresh about a start, a new experience, or an undertaking. It awakens us to new things and makes us feel alive. Making ourselves available to the unfolding moments in a day is not just a practice in itself, it is the practice. And this practice starts with waking up to a blank day.

I am talking about a day that is not the day following some yesterday, or a day before a tomorrow with a rigid agenda and a set routine. I am talking about something so pristine and practically untouched by anything that has come before it — a day brimming with potential. And I know that is literally possible since I have had days when I have new, seminal experiences, completely unique ideas, or I am doing things I have never done before, and it feels great.

These days, the thought of an entirely new year has me so excited. I am looking at dozens of weeks, hundreds of days, thousands of hours, 525,600 minutes, and so many millions of seconds waiting to be explored, animated, filled up, emptied, breathed life into and lived in any way that I wish. If that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is.

Some 14 years ago, I had my first encounter with Zen and I immediately embraced its focus on the moment — not some special moment but every ordinary moment we live. These moments become special to us simply because we sanctify them with our attention. I was being asked to pay attention. That was the simple practice. I have learned a lot, but I still have not mastered it.

I have learned and continue to learn that the more you pay attention, the more you become awake, and the more you are awake, the more you become accident prone — yes, accident prone to the gift of kensho, or satori: enlightenment. This is the great moment when, to put it simply and dispassionately, everything in the universe is experienced as being in its proper place.

And yet, there is no difference between a moment of kensho and a moment of mundane living. What makes certain moments different or special is the fact that we make it special. When you think about it, every moment is of infinite potential. There is essentially no difference where one is or what one is doing. The universe and its gifts are in every place you are in, and in whatever you are doing. The ordinary moment is clothed with great invisible power waiting to be recognized by the awakened mind.

At 60, I have much to look forward to this year. New moments and opportunities will present themselves which I will shape to what I want to experience. And at the same time, I will humble myself and accept their gifts, and allow myself be shaped by them.

This year, my musical side wishes to express itself through many shows I would like to do everywhere I can, and new songs that I wish to write, sing, record and perform. I am also excited to do a lot of photography with great passion and dedication while continuously learning new skills. At the same time, I wish to start writing my fifth book and finish it. I once told myself that I wish to write 20 books before I conk out. I have not written one in five years. It’s time to do it again. There are also social concerns to get passionate about which I am sure will make this year a very exciting one for me.

There is so much playing out in life. There are many things that demand our time and attention. Life demands that we multi-task to be able to put things in order. The job, family, relationships, our social lives, our duties and responsibilities to society, faith, home and individual lives are all important. But in the context of beginnings and fresh starts, what is important is how we respond to all of these.

The common response to many of the things we have to do is to simply do them the way we have been doing in the past. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If there’s nothing wrong, why change it? And it makes sense to use a formula that is tried and tested and that works.

But what about the things that do not work too well? There are areas in our lives that do not serve us as well as others, where our responses (or even the lack of it), do not give us positive results or experiences. These need a new approach, a new mindset, clear thinking and fresh takes. These call for new beginnings.
I have always felt that my capacity to jettison old hurts, disappointments and failures and start again has served me well. My wife often gets impatient with me when I can’t remember directions on the road, or have a hard time doing things around the house — things she finds so easy to do. In such moments, instead of allowing myself to become negative or defensive, I focus on learning. The important thing is the moment and that is all I have to pay attention to until I eventually get it. And it is always a beginning. There is always something new to learn. In a Zen frame of mind, there is no such thing as repetition.

Tonight, before I sat down to write this article, I played my iPod and sang to minus-one tracks of some APO songs that I used to sing with Danny and Boboy. When we were still a trio, I hardly sang solo; my instinct was mostly to blend in and make sure that the sound of three was like the sound of one united effort. In a way, it meant holding back, filling in the gaps in volume, and shaping one’s voice to fit the sound we wanted as a group.

As a solo artist now, I find a new thrill singing to the music of APO’s hits. I phrase the words the way I want to without having to blend in. I also push notes upward or inflect and bend melodies in ways I find interesting. I feel like a fresh new artist singing new songs, even if, in fact, I have done these songs with APO thousands of times.

We have all lived our lives, and I may have lived longer than most of you, my readers. But you may be able to relate when I say that there are many ways to “de-routinize” life and make it fresh, new and exciting — a new beginning always.

And even when things do come to an end, just as the last effort comes to a halt and things stop, the moment is merely a pause while it waits for us to begin something new.

Since we are fated to be perpetual beginners, it makes sense to learn the art of it by always beginning our lives anew — fresh, blank and unsullied by the past.

* * *

My first workshop for the year!

If you got a DSLR camera for Christmas, now is the time to learn to use it. Take great pics throughout the year and beyond. Basic Photography is on Jan. 28 from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Varsity Hills, QC. It’s the street across Miriam College. Fee is P3,920 (includes VAT). Call 0916-8554303 to reserve or write to jpfotojim@gmail.com. See you.

1 to “Life starts at 60”

  1. Nice post, I particularly like “feted to be perpetual beginners”. This will be a big year Jim. We should do a shoot together again sometime soon!

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