"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Times They Are A-Changing

“One of my favorite subjects of contemplation is this question: “Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?””
― Pema Chödrön

"I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence..."
–– David Bowie, "Changes"

I was never really much of a David Bowie fan.  Yet, as I sat down to the computer to begin this week's post, strains of "Ch-ch-ch-ch changes..." started running through my brain.  
Curious, I surfed over to YouTube  and played the song a few times.  I then brought up a copy of the lyrics, and grinned as I read Bowie's personalized rendition of prototypically first-world existential angst facing itself in the mirror.
"Ch-ch-ch-ch changes.  Turn and face the strange." 

The Dharma in drag?
I would never had imagined that David Bowie would make an appearance in today's blog post.  How'd I end up here?  
Perhaps our first frost warnings of the season had something to do with this odd collection of firing neurons.  Summer is fading in the rear view mirror.  Today's high is predicted to be in the low 60's.  As September continues to prance toward the inevitable, it's "ch-ch-ch-ch changes," indeed.

The Fall Rising
The ensuing winter notwithstanding, autumn is my favorite time of year.  But it's not just the multi-colored majesty of the foliage and cooler temperatures that bring its music to the top of the charts.  
I wish it were that easy. 

Spring is easy to love. After the starkness of a New England winter, the world begins to explode with new life.  With warm breezes teasing us and daffodils poking their way through the snow, the irrepressible growth and greenery sings of "Ch-ch-ch changes" full of delight.  Fall, on the other hand, modulates the whole world into a minor key as leaves burst into color -- then die and cascade to form burial mounds on the forest floor. 
The dance of the seasons underscores the trajectory of our lives.

In the teachings of traditional Buddhism, human existence is said to have three basic characteristics: impermanence, non-self, and suffering.  Everything changes. We are not permanent, static, strictly individuated beings -- and we will die.  It hurts.  

Fall puts that right in our face. 

These Precious Days

As a child, I was transfixed the first time I heard "September Song."  It touched me deeply.  Even then, I got it.  I knew.  None of us is going to get out of here alive.  The inexorable movement of our lives toward the final destination is a given.  As Suzuki Roshi once put it, "Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink."  

Now, at age 74, with Frank Sinatra's voice singing in the background (thanks to YouTube,) melodic metaphor meets reality.  The truth of the matter is clear.  The days really are dwindling down to a precious few.

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, the neighborhood rooster is crowing in the damp morning air.  A couple of crows are relaying the news over the hiss of the traffic outside the window.  A solitary cricket sings harmony as this chilly mid-September day unfolds.   

Today is simply -- and perfectly--just what it is.  It is precious.

Sitting here, breathing in and breathing out, the tears arrive and depart, only to arrive and depart again.  Experiencing fully the play of sensations, sights, and sounds that dance within the vast and limitless domain of awareness that resides in my heart of hearts, great gratitude and great grief are one.  Within and beyond the profound sadness encountered as I embrace life/death As It Is, there is a deep joy and an incredible beauty.  Within and beyond the deep poignancy of our collective "situation," eternity whispers through the deep stillness. 

I can live -- and die -- with that.


Carol said...

Calming! Thanks.

Piyali said...

This was beautiful. And profound. Thank you, Lance.

Stephanie said...

I've been thinking of you Lance, I learned a new noting practice: in addition to "thinking, thinking"..."feeling, feeling". How strange and wonderful!