The Five Remembrances, which for a while were making me feel gloomy, are starting to infuse my life with joy and relief.
—I am of the nature to grow old—there is no way to escape growing old.
—I am of the nature to have ill health—there is no way to escape ill health.
—I am of the nature to die—there is no way to escape death.
—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.
—My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
This isn’t bad news. It’s great news, liberating news. If ill health, old age and death can’t be avoided, then I don’t have to waste time and energy trying to do that. Now, I might not want to actively try to bring them on by adopting an all pork rinds diet—I’d like to feel semi-well while I am in fact alive—but that I’m aging or have become ill doesn’t mean I’m failing. These things are supposed to happen, so I can relax.
Likewise, I don’t have to strategize about how to hang onto this or that forever—I can’t. One way or another, we will be separated.
Unrelated to this, I’ve lately changed the object I use for mindfulness meditation. Forget the breath. I’m sick of wrestling with it, despite the instructions being simply to observe the breath and to notice the associated sensations without trying to alter them. This is impossible. I don’t think that in 20 years I’ve taken an observed breath that I didn’t subtly try to alter in some way, trying to make it more exciting or more soothing or a little more noticeable.
At some point, noticing the breath at my nostrils began to give me a headache, which is not uncommon, and since then—and this was many years ago—I’ve tried a variety of different things, including attending to the breath in the belly and/or chest. I once heard a woman say she attends to the breath in her feet, which is perfectly legitimate. Every breath does affect our entire body, however subtly. After that, I tried the feet myself, but found it gave rise to increased thinking, as if my head was seizing the opportunity of my attention being five feet to the south to get up to some mischief.
I got some great advice from Phillip Moffitt on this at my retreat in August, but lately I finally decided to let go of the breath completely and just use the heart center—chest area—as my object, and that is working quite well. I often remember Andrea Fella’s words about thinking of attention on our object as if it’s a float resting on gently moving water: contact at all times, but so easy—the natural effect of gravity, no forcing or pressing required.
Sitting in meditation is a chance to practice consciously resting my attention somewhere, improving the odds that I’ll remember to act with conscious intention now and then when not sitting. I actually am noticing an improved ability to be aware of some physical sensation while speaking with someone else, which makes it easier to choose how to respond rather than simply doing what is habitual.
Often these days I feel completely contented, as if absolutely nothing is missing, nothing additional is required. As I read in a Buddhist magazine lately, maybe Tricycle, “In order to learn to be truly content here, you have to practice being truly content here.”
It’s been raining for days, with some periods of torrential downpour, such that when it’s merely raining, it seems like fantastic weather. I’ve heard seagulls outside my window, which is unusual, and also have discovered that the fellow who built the trillion-dollar house out back forgot to include drains for the flat portions of his roof, which have had standing water on them ever since it started raining.
Recalling the Seattle adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just improper clothing, I suited up yesterday morning and went to Rainbow, only to find it was closed due to flooding.
I’ve engaged two guards for the top of my new printer. SpongeBob’s lolling stance is somewhat eroding the professionalism of my home office, but he and his colleague are getting the job done, and he certainly does look happy.