Our planet is rocking and rolling, well America certainly is. Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Tom Petty, Harvey Weinstein, Northern Californian fires. These are all experiences that are extinguishing life/style as we know it, and yet until it hits home the reality of the fleetingness of our lives isn’t palpable.
I am sickened and heartbroken by what happened in Las Vegas, as well as every other seemingly avoidable mass shooting that happens in this country. Yet, I can’t fully fathom the destruction in Puerto Rico or feel the fear of those in Las Vegas without being there; however, last Monday morning I woke up to the Northern Bay Area on fire. This has hit very close to home as I know several people who’ve lost their homes and many more who’s were threatened. I was sad and afraid. All of sudden life takes on a different tinge, more serious and somber.
What happens when we are faced with loss? How do we come to terms with everything we’ve worked for materially disappearing in a few hours? How do we cope when we’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness? Who do we become when someone we love is shot dead in a crowd by a deranged person? These are defining moments in our lives, and not easy experiences to live with.
In the last few years, with the death of a few very close friends, I’ve become acutely aware of the inevitability of my own demise. Understanding the truth of my bodily impermanence by seeing death up close and personal has driven me to find a deeper understanding of life. I’ve started to deliberately connect with the uncertainty our lives are based in. This is deeply unsettling. I’m finding, however, that when I can meet this uncertainty with compassion it starts to unravel the need to control my environment and the need to hang on to insubstantial objects, both of which I do in order to feel a sense of safety. I’ve learned that in order to come to terms with death I must hold on loosely and not take anything I think too seriously, while at the same time responding to people and situations with love.
I can’t help but wonder how the accumulation of stuff, the complete disregard for those coming after, and the greed and corruption that is rampant on this planet is a direct refusal of the fact that we aren’t going to survive this life. What might be different if we simply acknowledged that we can’t hold onto any of it more than several decades, let alone take any of it with us? We want to hold on tight, shove others out of the way, take what’s mine, and feel victim to the larger circumstances that don’t allow us to get what we want in any given moment. We make choices every day that make things more important than people or more important than relationships to living beings. We want comfort and ease in our lives instead of a better world for all people, and yet I believe that not having an eye to the larger reality impacts our own in ways that undermine these desires.
Material goods, mood-altering substances, pleasurable experiences, and romantic relationships are all amazing experiences to have here on Earth, but trying to quell the anxiety that we carry about our very tenuous existence here with them is part and parcel of the degradation we are faced with at this time. We want everything, all that life has to offer, but we don’t recognize that the real “thing” we are trying to get by chasing/using/searching for these experiences will never be fulfilled unless we go deeper, to the core of the issue.
By realizing that our lives are a fleeting experience in the bigger scheme of things we can start to see differently, from a larger vantage point, which allows our perspective to change radically. What most of us want is to feel safe and to be at peace. That peace lives within us, as us. It resides in us as our true nature and in the knowing that even though our body will die we will not. What doesn’t die is the deeper I, the one that is creating all of this. The one many call God; the one that we can come to realize when we face the truth of death and its inevitability.
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new