-- Harada Roshi, opening talk,
Rohatsu Sesshin, Sogenji Monastery, 2011
— Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom
Generally, I have to roll out of bed and walk a few steps into the adjoining room. There, I participate in one aspect of this Grand Recyling Project known to some as Samsara. Depending on a multitude of factors ranging from things like phases of the moon, to what happens to be on my mind that particular moment, I then usually plop right back into bed and meditate back to sleep, often catching a few dream bubbles along the way.
Sometimes, something else happens.
Last night, as I crawled into bed, I heard the winds howling outside the window. I then felt a bit of coolness on my skin from a draft finding it's way under the blanket that hangs over the window alongside my bed on nights like these. Curious, I pulled a corner of the blanket up to take a peek. I found myself gazing in awe at the sight of trees dancing wildly outside the window as a frigid windsong played across the blue-white snowscape. Under the influence of a brilliant moon that was only a sliver past full, the surreal world outside the window was luminous. It seemed to glow from within.
I was dumbfounded. Thoughts, being irrelevant, incapable of grasping the majesty of the moment, pretty much just went on their merry way, leaving wonder in their wake. I was all eyes and ears. Transfixed, I don't know how long I was present to that particular miracle before I let the blanket fall back across the window, rolled over, and returned to sleep through feelings of wordless wonder and soft, sleepy delight.
As beautiful as the scene outside my window was last night, I also know the Reality of it. According to the National Weather Service, the raw temperature at 4 a.m at a small airport near here was -13°F. The windchill was -22°. Given different circumstances, that scene wouldn't be so delightful. It would be deadly.
In the grand scope of things, it is always like that, right?
Although we don't like to face it, Life itself is a deadly proposition. Without exception, life a terminal condition.
Most of us have grown up in a society that tries to assiduously avoid that piece of information. As a result, an incredible amount of psychic energy is bottled up in repressed fear and grief, or dissipated in vicarious "entertainment" and adrenaline rush "recreation".
In the hustle bustle and scurry of everyday life, many of us are acting like we are going to get out of here alive. This creates an incredible lack of perspective and focus. A lot of mindless activity, pettiness, and unnecessary foofaraw dissolves immediately when the Big Picture is brought into view and we see the screen reads THE END.
In the Buddhist tradition, the inevitability of Death is seen as a fundamental truth that, once faced, enlarges and deepens our motivation and capacity to realize our True Nature.
Reminders are widespread among the various chants and teachings. When I was in residence at Zen Mountain Monastery years ago, the Eno would recite the Evening Gatha at the end of his day's final meditation service.
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 Zendo at Zen Mountain Monastery|
It just takes Practice.
(Last week I had considered following the recommendation of Thich Nhat Hanh to practice a Day of Mindfulness each week. This week I've seen my plans surrounding that commitment morph and change a number of times as new projects emerged. I could easily dismiss the idea as "impractical" in light of current realities. Yet, at this point the plan is to pull the plug tonight and do a Sabbath Day of Mindfulness tomorrow. Stay tuned. --One Love, Lance )