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:
- I am already in a state of aging. I have not gone beyond aging.
- I am subject to illness and have not gone beyond illness.
- I am subject to death. I have not gone beyond death.
- I will be separated and parted from all that is dear and beloved to me.
- 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.