"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Grave Matter of Life and Death

Let me respectfully remind you:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
 Awaken!  Take heed!  
Do not squander your life
-- The Zen Evening Gatha



Daniel Atilio "Danny" Cruz
July 30, 1992 - December 13, 2017

I think it is clear.  Danny Cruz, who blessed us with his committed Presence in the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle, did not squander his life. 

Although the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy that ultimately ended his precious life at age 25 may have limited the freedom of his body, Danny was the quintessential Free Spirit.  His creativity, energy, revolutionary zeal, and passion for life appeared to be limitless.  

Through his copious artwork, through his unbridled musical expression with the Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth, and, perhaps even more importantly,  through his many encounters with members of his beloved community, Danny's upbeat exuberance and good will were boundless.  

It touched all those knew him.  

Chogyam Trungpa once described the Crazy Wisdom that is revered in that school of Tibetan Buddhism as "an innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake. " 

The ten thousand volt sparkle I often saw in Danny's eyes comes to mind.

The fresh, unfiltered honesty and the immensity of Danny's goodwill towards others were extraordinary.  Although many of us experienced shock at the suddenness of his death, and grieve the loss of his Presence on this plane of existence, the Generosity of Spirit that Danny exuded freely transcends his death.  

It still touches us.  

Although I, admittedly, rolled my eyes when Danny described himself as a Zen Master in our first encounter in the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle, over these past years I came to appreciate the unique nature of his Mastery.   It manifested in his ability to stay positive in the midst of circumstances that would have crushed the spirits of many.  It manifested in his unwavering aspiration -- and unparalleled ability -- to Connect with those around him.  It manifested in his ability to rise, again and again, to the defense of anyone or anything that had been criticized in his Presence.  

Like any Zen Teacher worth his salt, Danny ceaselessly challenged the concepts and attachments that serve to separate us from ourselves, from one another, and from the Miracle of the Present Moment.  I learned a lot with Danny in the Circle.

Jai Guru Dev Danny Jai 

Healing Into Life and Death

There is no doubt about it:  Losing a loved one is extremely painful.   Yet, taking the time and making the space to mourn can be a deep and richly empowering Practice.  As one of my teacher's once said "honest grief is a noble thing."  I'm grateful that it has allowed me to maintain the Connection with Danny beyond his physical death.
 
The process of opening the heart fully to the death of a loved one can be a Holy Experience, connecting us to the One Love that embraces both Life and Death.  It is there we are Healed.  This is, I believe, exactly what Yogi Jesus was getting at when he proclaimed "Blessed be those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  
(READ MORE)
IMHO, there is no greater comfort than True Love, our willingness to allow our hearts to touch and be touched by the Fragile Majesty of the Human Condition we share.  An Open Heart and a Clear Mind are the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Through Heartbreak held in the embrace of Mindful Awareness we can find Deep Comfort -- and Deep Joy.  ( I suppose it's a sign of the season that these "tidings of comfort and joy" seem to have emerged with Christian imagery. :-) )

Mourning often doesn't come easy, of course -- especially in a society that is extremely "death phobic." Although we may be bombarded with death's "virtual reality" through violent entertainment and the news in the mass media, actual death is most often hidden from view, rarely acknowledged or discussed openly.  Most of us scurry ahead assiduously avoiding the topic until we lose a loved one or are directly faced with our mortality through "near misses", injury, or disease.  

Yet, the stark truth is that life itself is a terminal condition.  As Zen Master Suzuki Roshi once said, " Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea -- and sink".  None of us are going to get outta here alive.  

This reality, of course, sucks.  It holds great tragedy.  Yet, it seems to me, that the greater tragedy is not facing the matter of death squarely when we have the time and capacity to approach it through our Practice.  I am extremely grateful to the Teachers and Teachings that motivated and supported me to begin the exploration of the Grave Matter of Life and Death decades ago.  In retreat with Stephen Levine, JoAnna Macy, and others, I was fortunate enough to open my heart more fully to the Grand Mystery of Life/Death.  In the past couple of years, I've even begun practicing for my own death bed at times as I go to sleep.  I'm still a lightweight, though.  I once read that the Dalai Lama practices a Tibetan Death Meditation five times a day. 

My Favorite Flaming Dragon
Thank You Danny for Your Boundless Heart
Now, at age 71, I've found that through opening to the inevitability of my own Death, I can better embrace Danny in his Death.

At this stage of the journey I've seen for myself that in embracing the reality of this finite existence, the infinite preciousness of life becomes clearer and more vivid as it flows through each moment.   
When I'm actually paying attention, the panoramic view of Mindful Awareness that embraces both Life and Death also allows me to stay more deeply in touch with what is important in each moment, to engage life more fully with as much kindness, clarity, and compassion as I can muster.  This takes Ceaseless Practice.

I guess can live, and die, with that. 

1 comment:

Children of The Light said...

Awesome post Lance, thank you very much brother. Love and Blessings always my friend!