I’ve thought about that question a lot lately. My mom spent several days in the hospital recently, which means I’ve spent a lot of time at a hospital as well. She is home now, sleeping soundly, and I write this from their house. Today was more doctors, more tests, more of walking the path that comes at this stage of the disease she is living with and dying from. It is an interesting path and an interesting time.
While that is a personal thing, I also have been reflecting on how universal it is as well. There has been recent tragedy in our country with the situation in Arizona, but there were also many people who risked their own lives to help others that day. I talked to several folks this week who have lost friends or family members recently to some form of illness or calamity…deaths, fires, suicides, disease…lots of broken glass, broke and hungry, broken hearts, broken dreams, broken bones. Yet nearly everyone I spoke with has already found some good that arose from the hardship. I think of that question from Buddhism a lot in times like these. But the truth is, it’s always times like these. Mostly good, some pain, always something noble and beautiful to find in the ashes. I was thinking that in all of life, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. It’s very much about what we deem “the most important thing.”
As usual, thinking about that led me to thinking about something else and then down the path of convoluted thoughts my mind goes. And lucky you, Dear Reader, to stop by this blog and get sucked into that wacky mess, so here we go together 😉
My mother is very sick and someday, probably sooner rather than later, she will die. I am not sick, but someday I too will die. Now, while my personality and activity level are geared more toward the likelihood of being eaten by a bear in some remote woods than towards getting cancer, the truth is that someday I will leave this body. I feel very okay with that knowing in this moment. I suppose if I was gasping for air in an ER I might feel differently about it. But when thinking about it in the abstract, it feels very much okay in this moment.
So, following the convuluted thoughts of the mind, this led me to thinking about Ram Das and his wisdom. He has often said,
Our journey is about being more deeply involved in life and yet less attached to it.
As usual, that thought led me to thinking about my attachments and aversions, about the places I want to be more deeply involved but less attached, to love more but cling less. I watch my mother sleep, watch the sands of time pass through this particular hourglass, watch her breath rise and fall and know someday that will cease. I have a deep desire to be deeply involved in this process and a deep desire to be less attached to it. I have a deep desire to be very mindful of my own process in this time, to always be mindful that being self-conscious is not the same thing as attaining self-knowledge.
I find a practice of striving for self-knowledge is more fruitful when I look for the good in any experience or situation, when I look for the most important things in complex situations. What I often find is that the most important things are usually simple… relationships, love, gratitude, curiosity and a sense of humor. This does not mean denying there is pain, but it does mean acknowledging great gifts often come from painful experiences. When I find the good in a situation, I find it often comes from good people, which leads me to believe the Divine and the Universe are good as well. Because All is One, that means I am good as well, and all shall be well. Granted, sometimes that process takes a minute. But in knowing all shall be well, I can relax and again rest into the most important things. Thomas Merton said that the more we try to avoid suffering, the more we suffer, and I think he was right. A Chinese proverb says,
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
So, in this time of watching, waiting, living and being with all that is, I think the most important thing is to relax, take some deep breaths, try to let go of the tension that comes from painful experiences and just be. This led me to thinking about Chapter 4 of Philippians, one of my favorite verses in the Bible…
Rejoice always…Let your gentleness be evident to all. God is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Peace.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you.
So tonight, I’m sitting with knowing that just being here, present to this moment, is the most important thing. I’m sitting with remembering that this very moment is the best teacher, and she is always with us. I’m sitting with knowing that the most important thing is to just be here now, to focus on what is lovely and joyful. The most important thing is to love well, to live fully and openly, peacefully and with thanksgiving.
So tonight, may you find whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable and praiseworthy. In that and in all things, may you find a peace which passes all understanding, and may you find rest and joy in the most important things.
Night moon 😉