I confess, I think of my ‘self’ as fundamentally committed to exploring The Big Questions (as I’ve mentioned elsewhere). So I explore. Exploring means that we go someplace new, or to someplace we’ve been but with a different perspective. And I’m always coming across new stuff. My Big Questions are focused on the small area of living and dying.
The Stumbling Block
Everything I read about preparing for dying and a good death is STRONG on the self-reflection side; accepting, forgiving, making peace with one’s life and knowing what legacy you are leaving. But, I think that this Self Reflection part is made to seem Too Hard, like work. Having met quite a few people so for, I’m pretty sure that most of us are more inclined to do almost anything else in our busy days rather than sit quietly, reflecting on our lives and decisions, etc. It seems to feel too much like work . Many people participate within religious / spiritual communities: church, temple, sangha, study group, retreat, seminar. And there are also many of us who do not do these things. There are those who do engage in a private practice of study and reflection, and there are those who seem to eschew any practice at all.
“I have seen even those who have long since abjured God die in Grace… Atheists don’t use their dying to bargain for a better
seat at the table; indeed they may not even believe that supper is being served. They are not storing up ‘merit’. They just smile
because there heart is ripe. They are kind for no particular reason; they just love.” (Stephen Levine: “A Year To Live”)
So, After All These Years
of trying to do the work of a regular ‘practice’, that I would play more. (Yay! for Play!) Instead of aiming for 30 minutes, or 10, or 60 if I’m doing yoga at the same time, that I could, instead, be more attentive to the many tiny, little meditations and awarenesses that happen throughout the day. Years and years ago my husband & I were having a discussion. It was one of those discussions that could easily escalate into something uncomfortable, and my husband said: “You’re really being stubborn.” Humph. And all of a sudden I noticed a place inside of me where feelings come and go, and I saw that I was feeling stubborn. And I watched the stubborn-ness dissolve. Whatever the issue was, it wasn’t worth an argument. But BIGGER yet, by noticing the emotion, looking at it, I was able to remain un-attached to it. I didn’t have to take it personally. “I” didn’t have to BE stubborn, I just happened to have the feeling of stubborn for a bit. It was just a passing emotion, and it felt good. B-I-N-G-O.
No Sitting and Watching My Breathing
no guided meditation. No focused reflection on words of wisdom. It was a mini-meditation; and look at how long the memory has remained vivid. Simple, and pretty easy. For some people this kind of awareness of their feelings and intentions comes as an unbidden surprise. For the less fortunate, all is not lost. If we simply increase our desire to be more aware, we will be. We will become more aware because we have softened our hearts, even just a tiny bit, to noticing what’s going on. Just a moment at a time, with no expectations. If you’re a playing kind of person, then ‘noticing’ is a bit like “Finding Waldo”, or “Hidden Objects”.
What Does This Have To Do With Dying?
Dying is the Last Great Adventure Of This Life. Do we usually prepare for an adventure? We prepare for a picnic. The thing about dying is that we don’t know when it’s going to happen. Woody Allen says “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” NOT ME. I love adventures. And I’m doing my best to prepare for my Last One, one mini-meditation at a time.