1. We get to choose that which shapes us.
Words shape us. Words originate from thoughts. Thoughts matter – a Buddhist belief. Buddhists hardly use the word awesome. Buddhists hardly use the word awesome to describe life. It is awesome that I am using the word here now and using it to describe life is in and of itself awesome.
2. We get to choose how to respond to life, not simply react.
“Life is suffering” is a Buddhist refrain. Most people reject or deny Buddhists’ seemingly “negative” description about life. Most of us who grew up believing in positive thinking tell ourselves: life is awesome if I just tell myself it is awesome. Buddhists find it awesome to, first, know and accept the reality of life – at the most basic and yet universal level, birth, aging, sickness, and death, plus all the ephemeral up’s and down’s that are associated with them. A newborn is the greatest joy to its parents and loved ones. But it took an exorbitant amount of effort and pain for birth to deliver. The little one’s cries upon arrival indicate health and possibly a healthy premonition about the many moments for tears to come.
The greatest joy on earth does not last, an aspect of suffering. What is truly awesome though, is that someone who accepts that life serves up adversities is more likely to calmly choose a response, including positive thoughts, to any pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral set of circumstances. When I notice the folds of my skin in the wrists and ankles multiplying, I accept aging with a sense of wonder, in awe of the human condition as an organism. Life is awesome when I know I have the choice, and do choose, to respond with serenity to the good, bad, or ugly, rather than react or over-react by acting on the dramas that repeatedly act out in my head to the many supposedly unsuspecting things that come the way of life.
3. We may encounter sages and sagely teachings.
Whether we realize it or not, most Buddhists believe that enlightened beings and spiritual lessons abound. A stranger’s random gesture of kindness, an inspiring quote shared on Facebook, or a ray of sunshine bursting through the thick clouds—at the right time and place, each can be a most apropos teaching. It is awesome too for those of us who have come to recognize the holy beings and teachings that have crossed our paths. It is awesome the more evolved beings are wise and compassionate enough to wish to help other beings become more evolved.
Life is awesome, because we are born at certain times such as now rather than during times in history where mass censorship or hardship made it impossible to learn about Buddhism, because we understand certain languages such as English where the Buddha’s teachings are extant to an extent, and because we dwell on this particular planet in the universe, especially certain parts on earth, where Siddhartha became Buddha and imparted invaluable Dharma.
4. We have this life as an opportunity for becoming more evolved.
Buddhists consider the human life special, only because human beings have the ability to be aware of life’s reality and evolve karmically. We can know the pain of being stabbed by a sharp object, ponder as we wish, but most importantly, decide on actions such as removing the weapon and applying medication. It is awesome that we are the only species on earth that can think back, evaluate, and determine that there is a future and our future course.
5. We get more than one chance.
To understand something means to have tried, tested, and experimented with that something (within ethical bounds of course). The Buddha taught Buddhists to know his teachings not through blind faith, but through personal experience. For instance, I know how important the values of cherishing life is, not because I understand that intellectually and not only because my heart aches when I read about genocides, but because I have grappled with its application daily. Do I vacuum up that nest of spiders in the corner of my room or do I gently drop them into the yard?
It is awesome that we may fall off the wagon sometimes and yet we can always get right back on. Even if we messed up this life (a generalization that cannot be totally true for most people), we have future lives. Future lives where we will hopefully create more awesome karma (a generalization that likely applies for most people). Of course, just because we get many chances, we might want to get going when the goin’ is good – or awesome!