(The subject of Death came up at Monday Morning Mindfulness again this week. As generally happens when the Grim Reaper joins the MMM Circle, the discussion was quite lively. Since it's a subject that our society assiduously avoids, it seems that there is a lot of energy released when folks have the chance to compare notes on our ideas about the Final Frontier in an open and supportive environment.
In most schools of Buddhism, practitioners are actually guided to contemplate the inevitability of death as an essential foundation of Practice. More specifically, slogan 18 of the Lojong Trainings of Tibet is actually "the Mahayana instruction for ejection of consciousness at death." At age 69, this guidance becomes much less theoretical, much more immediate.
Exactly a year ago, I appeared at the doctor's office experiencing chest pains. After a brief conversation and some poking and prodding, I was sent off to the Emergency Room. A survivor of heart disease, with two stents in my cardiac arteries, it seems "better safe than sorry" was the maxim of the day. I wrote about the experience the next day and, still kicking a year later, I would like to share it again here.
One Love, Lance )
Knocking at Heaven's Door
Originally Posted, May 2, 2014
"One of my favorite subjects of contemplation is this question:
death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain,
what is the most
-- Pema Chodron,
"When you practice looking deeply, you see your true nature of no birth,
no death; no being, no non-being; no coming, no going; no same, no
When you see this, you are free from fear. "
-- Thich Nhat Hanh,
No Death, No Fear
have never been among my favorite places -- even as a visitor.
certainly grateful that the subject of Death has been a focal point of
Practice, study, and conversation in my life recently, because yesterday
I found myself in the emergency room of the local hospital with oxygen tubes at my nostrils, wired
to a couple of machines listening to the someone crying down the hall.
I hadn't recognized that sound as crying until the young woman who
arrived to take blood samples said, "She's really having a hard time of
it." I had just experienced the sound as another background sound among
the whirrs, buzzes, clicks, and beeps of this busy small town medical
had been laying there for close to an hour at that point, meditating
whenever I wasn't being conscientiously poked and prodded (verbally or
physically) by the staff. Earlier that day I had arrived at the clinic
of my primary care physician to explore a nagging chest pain that I had
been experiencing for awhile. Since I have a history of cardiac disease
and live with two stents installed in my heart, she had concluded it
was probably wise to get to the ER and run the standard tests to
determine whether my ticker was firing on all cylinders or not.
laying there in the ER, touched by the compassion of the young
technicians voice, I had turned my attention to the sound down the
hall. The distress of the person was apparent. As often happens these
days when i notice an emotional discomfort, my first thought was to
begin Tonglen practice. Already fairly adrift in a clear, relaxed and
spacious awareness, I drew the sound and those feelings into my heart on
the in-breath, then released with the outbreath into the caring
spaciousness of my heartfelt wishes for that person to be at peace.
The moment I began, I heard the blood technician's voice asking, "are