Monday, August 20, 2012

Less and less afraid of death

A beautiful death
12:30 a.m. Technically, it's Monday.  It's still Sunday night for me, and I am again not falling asleep on schedule. August, all that decaying ripeness and weather.  And then, there has been a great deal happening energetically around our house; it could use a good Feng Shui cleansing - maybe I'll do that.  Just opened a window here in my study, for a start.  It's going down to 55 tonight, and it rained earlier, so the pollen count and air quality aren't bad.

Tom's sister Diane is here again for a few days, working with Tom to make sense of an estate that is confused and bewildering.  We are thinking so much about death, with their father in hospice and his dementia progressing and making him more difficult to be around. Tuesday their 90-year-old mother is having a hip replacement, and we know she might die on the table or develop anesthetic-related dementia.  The sister-in-law who is taking care of her has taken the family through choosing and cleaning a suit for Jim, a shirt and tie.  Despite this, I sense that none of the children actually believes Jim will die.

I am noticing how relatively accepting I have become of death since my father died unexpectedly some fifteen years ago.  My mother four years later, my brother the next year.  Then there was my own looming death from kidney failure.  Now it's one friend after another.  Sheer experience helps; repeated hospitalizations, sometimes with roommates who were dying, kept wearing down my sharp corners.  It's been clear to me that many people here in America handle aging and death very badly, their own and others'. 

Here are notes I made in my journal the other day about how I think Buddhist practice - both sitting and studying the philosophy - has changed me in this regard. (I see I fell into that "we" way of talking that American Buddhists seem  inordinately fond of.  Oh well.)
Tashi confronts a demon
How Buddhism helps us inch out of our fear of death -

- as we become more awake to reality, we see that death is inevitable

- as we become less egocentric, we see that we are not special and exempt

- we realize connection, our nature as a single blade of grass among billions

-as we relax our attempts to control reality, we see that it is a vast rising wave of myriad things being born, rising, crashing over and pulling under the things that went before

- we fully realize the suffering of samsara, and how it can be good to be released from all kinds of pain and difficulty

- we realize Not Knowing is a fact, and stop trying to figure everything out

- we gain skill in welcoming the moment, friendly demon or otherwise


  1. We laugh when we look back at how naive we were.

    1. Yes, I have to smile at my younger self sometimes.