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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Contemplative Gerontology, continued

After a walk in the park with Happy-the-happy-dog, we return to our little house. As I walk through the front room, this thought comes to the front of my mind: There will be a point in the future when I no longer live here, because I live somewhere else or because I am no longer alive in my current form.  This jarring moment of awareness – awareness of my present state of being (where I am located in time, space and place) alongside awareness of some certain future state of un-or-altered-being (the timing and circumstances of which I cannot know) -- is an opportunity for spontaneous contemplative practice. It is also an opportunity to engage in one of my other favorite related practices, the practice of pondering “What happens next?”

(I don’t always take the opportunity. Today, I did.) 

Here’s how it works. As I have the realization of impermanence and transience that comes with the thought “At some point in the future I will no longer live in my precious little house either because I live somewhere else or because I am no longer alive,” I am having not only a mindful, spiritual experience, but I am having a profoundly embodied-consciousness experience as well. So, I intentionally behold what happens next in my body, which is a feeling I have learned to call nervousness or even anxiety—my heart rate speeds up and my guts feel turbulent. I feel scared of and shocked by the certitude that everything that has a beginning also has an ending.  Including my precious little life.

I wonder next how I learned to have this embodied experience of the thought that I will at some point no longer live in this house, and, more to the point, no longer live in this particular body. And then I make myself really feel these feelings, amplify as fully as I can stand at this particular moment on this particular day this feeling of anticipatory grief at the passing of a phase of my life, at the passing of myself as alive in and to the world as I am right now.

And then, what happens next is that I start shrieking (though using my inside voice): YIKES! I don’t want to leave here – I don’t want to leave this house, I don’t want to leave this life,  I don’t want to leave me!!

And then, what happens next, and what becomes the antidote to my existential anxiety, is that I intentionally shift my awareness back to the here, the now.

I think I’ll finally paint the kitchen walls some happy hue. I think I’ll mop the wood floors and give them a lemon oil massage. I think I’ll plant some lemon cucumbers. I think I’ll weave new prayer flags through the backyard bamboo.

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