Gazing at tonight's full Snow Moon as it sails into a sky that promises sub-zero wind chills before morning, I recalled a post written after a similar night eight years ago. I have tweaked it a bit and am reposting it this week. Have a look?
— Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom
"Please understand, you have inherent in your very Mind a huge potential, an incalculable brilliance, an ability to see the reality of this moment clearly."
-- Harada Roshi, opening talk,
Rohatsu Sesshin, Sogenji Monastery, 2011
|My Little Corner of the World|
Generally, at least once a night, 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 in some circles as Samsara.
Then, depending on a multitude of factors ranging from things like the phases of the moon, to what happens to be on my mind at the moment, I usually plop right back into bed and quickly meditate back to sleep. With any luck at all, a bit of lucidity happens, and I catch 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 as a draft found its way under the blanket that hangs over the window alongside my bed for nights like these.
Curious, I pulled a corner of the blanket up to take a peek.
I was awestruck.
Outside the windows, the wind howled eerily as the stark silhouettes of winter's barren trees danced wildly in the moonlight. Not to be outdone, their shadows played across the blue-white snow of the yard beyond the stubble of the gardens. Under the influence of a brilliant full moon, the entire world outside the window was luminous. It seemed to glow from within.
Thoughts, being incapable of grasping the majesty of the moment, became irrelevant. They just went on their merry way unattended -- leaving wordless wonder and sheer delight in their wake. Mindful Awareness did it's thing. I was all eyes and ears -- and Heart!
Grinning ear to ear, I stretched out, relaxed, and returned to sleep.
Sitting here, recalling the experience, another truth embedded in the stark reality of last night's weather comes into clear focus.
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 I gazed at outside the window wouldn't have been delightful. It would have been deadly. I have experienced homeless in my life. I am well aware that unprotected, I could have died out there -- and the trees and wind and moon would've just danced on.
Yet, in the grand scope of things, that's the real deal. Even though I am sheltered and warm at the moment, Life itself is always a deadly proposition. It's a terminal condition. Nobody gets outta here alive.
The Facts of the Matter
We are each born. We each die.
Most of us have grown up in a society that tries to assiduously avoid those facts. 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."
The denial of death creates an incredible lack of perspective -- and focus. If we are willing, instead, to fast-forward ahead to see that the screen inevitably reads THE END, we can then decide whether we are playing the current scene in a way that makes any sense. A lot of senseless activity, discord, and pettiness dissolves immediately when the Big Picture is brought into view.
In the Buddhist tradition, the inevitability of Death is seen as a fundamental truth to be contemplated deeply -- and regularly remembered. When this aspect of the human condition is faced squarely, our ability to appreciate the preciousness of life deepens, and our motivation to realize our True Nature heightens. Reminders of Death are widespread among the teachings, practices, and chants of all the Buddhist traditions.
When I was in residence at Zen Mountain Monastery years ago, the Eno (chant leader) would recite the Evening Gatha at the end of each day's final meditation service. With dark eyes flashing, she ardently delivered the traditional exhortation:
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|
These days, after decades of daily practice, blessed with the regular support of friends and kindred spirits, l'm grateful to experience a sense of ease and clarity, even delight, as most days flow by. Life being Life, I also have plenty of opportunity to witness and explore my own reactivity, angst, ignorance, and confusion as they emerge.
It just takes Practice.
I can live -- and die -- with that.
Originally Posted, January 2015. Revised.