Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Staring Down Death

...well, maybe that's a rather intense way of putting it. I suppose this is the reflection on my mortality that was supposed to coincide with my birthday.

As I was sitting this morning, and the familiar pain in my legs was becoming unbearable, I understood the whole "life is suffering" bit just a little bit more.

Seeing as this post was originally supposed to be for the 3rd, I've been having trouble articulating this here. I'll put what I wrote in my journal (on the 3rd)

"Every breath is another step towards death. There is no going back and no sidestepping. With each moment we suffer in some way but to accept the suffering without judgment steals its power over our minds, turning it simply into a fact."

Another perspective I experienced during the same session I came across while reading Uchiyama Roshi's Opening the Hand of Thought (which is very good, by the way) yesterday:

"Doing zazen is to actualize the reality of life. Zazen is the self which is only the self of the universe, without any playing with toys. Zazen is like the time just before our death when all the toys have been taken away. Yet, even then, we look around for something to play with, if only for an instant.

He uses the term toys for any sort of outside distraction that takes our interest from birth through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. It can be something concrete, or an idea or daydream. I like the word "diversions" better, reminding me of the Spanish word for games divertidos. We're always playing games with ourselves, toys implies physical props. But then again it was originally written in Japanese and maybe the Japanese word has a different connotation in Japanese.

But as I sat there facing the wall, it felt like I was facing death in a way. It's kind of hard to put it into words, kind of an imperative to live right then. Like this was what the moment before death was going to be like. Knowing that that moment was all I really had.

I don't think it was frightening, maybe just sobering. I hope its echoes stay with me for a while and sink in a little more. While it's not something I want to obsess about, it would be good to keep in mind.

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