Meditating on Death, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended a workshop on my eventual death.  It was extremely powerful, and sort of relieving.  There were Five Recollections which came down to the following, taught by Noell Clark:

  1. I am already in a state of aging.  I have not gone beyond aging.
  2. I am subject to illness and have not gone beyond illness.
  3. I am subject to death.  I have not gone beyond death.
  4. I will be separated and parted from all that is dear and beloved to me.
  5. I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, supported by my actions, whatever I do for good or for evil, that I will inherit.

What I found is that there are things that are upsetting to me, and those that are not, just like anything.  However, in meditating on these truths, it’s become clear to me that it doesn’t really matter whether they upset me or not, because it’s all coming.  The beautiful and awful day I spent meditating on these things helped me to come to terms with the inevitability of them all.  Noell would read out the recollection and then give us time to meditate on it, and then more time to write about it.  The last two recollections, we undertook in the beautiful and atmospheric Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

These truths bring us back to the reality of impermanence, in all things.  In the first recollection, realizing that I am in the best condition that I am likely to be in again was kind of shocking.  Obvious, but shocking all the same.  Things are already wearing out.  There are things I could do when I was younger that I no longer do, and things that I can do now, that I will no longer do in x amount of years/months/weeks.  Sometimes, I tell people that I knew I was middle-aged when I could no longer sell my eggs in the Pennysaver ads (you know, those advertisements when they ask for young women between the age of 18 and 35 to sell their eggs to donate to infertile couples).  It’s a joke, but also true, as most jokes are.  That doesn’t place less value on my current life, and it really never was an aspiration for me, but it is a marker of time.  There are more serious changes on the horizon, but they are already happening.  No one can slow down this train.

Recollection 4 was also a killer for me.  But again, it’s already happening.  My girls who looked at me like I was magic when they were toddlers look at me now with a more tempered love.  In 10 years, they may not want to spend much time with me.  In 20, perhaps they will dodge my phone calls.  As a bibliophile, I see how the world is falling away behind me.  Things go out of print.  Handwriting is being abandoned.  The Internet has changed human communication forever.  It’s all disappearing, and in this century, almost faster than we can get our feet on solid ground again.

And of course, Recollection 5.  What can I do with all this?  I am reaping everything I have sown.  How can I be the light, instead of the darkness?  Instead of feeding into malaise and anger, perhaps I can make things better?  No, it will never be how it was, but maybe it can still be beautiful.  Instead of being caught in the cyclone of negativity and misery that is all around us, maybe I can be a still place in this world.

In this month’s Spirituality & Health magazine, the editor referred to poet Mary Oliver.  “The same person who wrote, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ also wrote ‘But no matter how hard I try to tell this story, it’s not like it was’.”

So, let’s not grasp. Spend time with the recollections, let your mind meditate on the future to come to terms with the inevitable.  Then, anchor yourself in the present to live every second you have now.  Because later, it will be gone, and you will never be able to tell that story fully again.

As always, I love comments.  Have you spent any time digging through the discomfort of inevitability?  Add your thoughts to the conversation.


Meditating on Death

So, just to get this out of the way, I’m not planning on dying anytime soon.  Tomorrow though, I will be thinking about dying a little bit, and how to practice the very act of letting go during Noell Clark’s workshop tomorrow, Yoga and the Five Recollections: Practicing Impermanence.  I’ve talked about Noell previously, as she is my special first yoga teaching teacher, and not only is she an amazing teacher in both lecture and practice, she’s also a fabulous person.  So, if you would like to contemplate impermanence with me, evidently there are still a couple of spots left for tomorrow.

This all brings to mind an odd time in my past.  I say odd, but it was actually very cool.  For unknown reasons, before I had my children, I went through a period of about 6 months where I thought of the possibility of my death regularly.  I’d just be walking along, or working, or cooking in my kitchen and think to myself, I could drop dead right now.  And you know what?  It’s still true.  I really could.  I have reached the age where people that I hung out with as a teen have started dying.  I’m of an age where it would be a tough break, but not a total surprise.  Anyhow, during that stage of my life, I felt liberated.  There was something positively tasty about thinking that this could be it…and it wasn’t.  I remember sharing this thought with some of my older friends who were in their 80’s at the time, and they laughed.  They said that when you are as close as they are, there’s no relish in that anymore.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a mom of two wonderful young daughters.  I don’t take any pleasure in thinking about my own impermanence anymore.  I frame my life in terms of their needs.  Sometimes, I even think of milestones.  I heave a sigh of relief that my girls have been fiercely loved in their formative years, and I hope, Harry Potter style, that my love has infused them with super powers.  Then I think, well, they’ll need me in high school.  They’ll need me in college.  They’ll need me when and if they have children.  Is there ever a point in which a loved parent’s absence is A-Okay?  Kind of like the decision to have children in the first place, there’s never a “good time to do it.”  There’s always something else we need to do to prepare.

Well, tomorrow I am going to dive in a little, in hopes that I can get that “tasty” feeling again, and not take a single moment that I am still here for granted.