When I first came to practice I was intrigued when I heard that training was a process of getting ready to die well. It was saying that everything I did from now on was a preparation for a good death. At the time I sort of knew I could die at anytime, (my experiences ending up in hospital after being knocked off my bike(s) led me to see how fragile and vulnerable this body can be),but was I living fully this way? If I was about to die at any time was I prepared to let go of life? Could I give it up when the time came? A tall order you may say. Perversly, the deeper the letting go is and the more we penetrate impermanance, with it comes a stronger sense of wanting to live.
Conversations these days can focus on health issues. Understandable as we grow older and the body and mind shows signs of becoming less able. The exchange of tales from visits to the doctor, nurse and hospital appointments and the different therapies that are advocated and we try to implement are exchanged. When we get ill with something that is a bit beyond the normal aches and pains which we are all prone to it can focus the mind and one naturally hones in on these issues. To look after our minds and bodies is of course good and a sign of respect to that which we have and can use for good. Training can take will and effort. Indeed the meal time scripture says ‘We eat lest we become lean and die’. However hard we keep up an exercise regime or eat healthily we will still die. To keep fit and healthy is good but let us not create a falsehood, a permanancy, a delusion. It is so easy to overdo it and strive towards a perfection that is always out of reach. The next best diet, the upgrade of an exercise program. It is so easy to be diverted from the important matter. The mind seems to be so good at creating illusions, of showing us a potential life outside of what is.There is indeed a middle way which is neither holding on or pushing away.
Much of my monastic work has been around chronic illness and seeing how people learn to be with what can be a difficult adjustment to make. The body and mind deterioates and we become more and more dependent on others in ways that are new to us. In all of this something can and does shine through and light up a room. ‘The light of insight shines forth’. When we can see from meditation, illness and death are transformed and compassion for this impermanat body and mind manifests. A compassionate sees that we are not seperate. Although ill and the body is breaking down what we really are is not harmed. It shows that enlightenment is ever present. Letting go is all important in all we do. We are free to be ill and free to die. there is nothing to hold onto, not life itself. Being healthy when we are able, is good, let us not allow it to become a solid permanant self. Let go fully and return to the source. We may not know why we are on this earth, but we can know what we need to do as our bodies leave it.