Thursday, November 13, 2008

All that is dear to me and everyone I love

Now that I am feeling a little better, I have enough detachment to begin talking about the fourth line of The Five Remembrances. (The complete text is at the bottom of this page.)
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
In a talk, Jack Kornfield tells of two friends who run into each other at a funeral home, where they are paying respects to a wealthy man.

One asks, “What did he leave behind?”

The other says, “Why, everything.”

Yes, that's what we leave behind.

Last night network news ran a story about people “losing their homes.” No, wait! I said. You’re talking about losing a house. It’s a pile of sticks and concrete and rebars. If we think it’s our one safe place, that our shelter is somehow us, we grasp it with everything we’ve got.

This does not just apply to younger people in foreclosure. Many of my friends have been worried by elderly parents whose mantra is, “I want to stay in my home. I love my house.” Sometimes everyone else can see that, on a realistic level, the house is not very lovable. It has gone from being a good shelter for an active young family to being a burden for people too infirm to maintain it. Reason tells us they are in constant danger using stairs, they don’t eat well. It would make sense to move somewhere suitable to their actual present life, somewhere where they could get a hot meal once a day, and have the security of a bellpull by the bed and in the bathroom. This is actually what we mean by "living in the moment" - being in touch with reality, without the filters of attachment and illusion.

Believe me, I have felt the intensity of an elder’s passion to “stay in my home,” and learned that sometimes you can't fight it. It has to end with a catastrophic health event that might have been avoided by more realistic choices.

The intensity of an emotion does not make it a good guideline for action, more so when the emotion is about maintaining an illusion. In fact, acting on impulse and passion is a good way to ruin your life, and take others down with you. One of the effects of meditation practice is to show us time after time that if we just sit still and allow emotions to come and go, that's what they do. Yes, they're my emotions, and I might have to dance with them; but I don't have to marry them.

There is an old song that straightforwardly compares a house to our own self, our own body. It was one of the first songs I ever learned; I have a feeling it was printed on the back of a Kellogg’s cornflakes box. I still like the song as an example of accepting change and death with good humor. The chorus is -

Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend the windowpane
Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
I’m a-gettin' ready to meet the saints.

(Not that I personally am ready, you know.)

No comments:

Post a Comment