Nothing There in the First Place

At the end of "A Messy Path: Conversation with Joseph Goldstein and Pascal Auclair" in the final (Spring 2015) issue of Inquiring Mind the two Buddhist mindfulness-meditation teachers respond to a question about how they are preparing for death:

JG: Aging certainly brings death to the fore. Death has actually been on my mind a lot lately, just the realization that there is not much time left. I've been using one of the classic Buddhist reflections, which states: "That which is subject to illness grows ill. That which is subject to aging ages and then dies." Then there is a tagline that I find very impactful: "And I am not exempt."

When something hurts a little bit or I don't feel so well, that line will come to me: "And I am not exempt." What's surprising is how it touches that place in the mind where somehow we thing we are exempt. Even when it is so obvious that we're not, it's revealing to see how deeply we feel that we are. As long as we're feeling well, it seems to natural to think it will always be like that. And then, of course, for all of us, we come up against the very natural process of the body getting old and getting ill and dying. For me, a great practice has been to take even short periods of time to be with each breath, each step, as if it were the last, and to remind myself of how I would like to be in those dying moments. It has been striking to see how in this very simple remembrance, the mind effortlessly becomes vivid and awake. That would be a good way to die.

PA: For me it's a little different, partly because I'm only forty-five. There was a time in my life when I was much more in touch with death, because of a life-threatening illness. But now my condition is stable and chances are I will die of something other than that illness.

One way that I work with death is just in the practice of sitting, paying attention to how things last for just one moment, and seeing that these present moments are escaping all the time. All of the things that we expect to do and become don't really belong to us. With sitting, it becomes really clear that the sensations are not us. They can't be owned. I get intimate with death on a daily basis in sitting. It's a very expansive practice. Everything disappears. I don't know if it's naïve or what, but I think the best way I can prepare for death is to clarify that there was nothing there that was mine in the first place.

(cf. Messy Path (2015-05-23), ...) - ^z - 2015-05-31