Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Personal Anniversary

I hope you will forgive me notice of a personal anniversary -- but, since my family and friends are the target audience of this weblog, it isn't altogether inappropriate.

Today is March 30, 2009.

On this day, three years ago, I was dead on an operating table in a hospital in Arcadia, California. The atoms that arrange my heart rearranged themselves.

I remember the surgical nurse shouting at me, "It's a decision! It's just a decision! Come back!" I remember thinking to myself, "Hey lady, I know it's a decision, but I'm taking a little vacation here." She seemed to know these thoughts, and shouted, "Don't get attached to it! Come back!" She was a big old red-headed gal, used to getting her way. I liked her immensely. Not everybody knows what to say.

She kept arguing with me, and the doctor kept busy with technical matters, so I decided to come back. Westerners will say things like, "Well, it wasn't your time yet," but that isn't entirely correct. Like the lady said, it is very much a decision.

That heart attack was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The dress rehearsal gave me a lot of confidence about opening night. The three years since then have been an absolute joy in every respect. I would not wish to revise even the smallest moment of the most difficult day.

One can argue that one's karma permits but a set number of days. Again, that is not entirely correct. The analogy used to argue the point is of a butter lamp, filled with butter, and a strong wick. The conditions may be optimal, but somebody suddenly opens a door, and a wind blows out the flame. There is still butter in the lamp, but the flame is interrupted.

Longevity practice, and here I am thinking specifically of White Tara practice as expressed in the Karma Kagyu tradition, is another case in point. The seeming imperative of a "set number of days," becomes a rather more flexible concept in view of such practices.

One frequently hears, "You were spared for a reason," speculating that some higher, original architecture came into play. Once more, that is not altogether the case. Any higher, original architecture is the architecture of no architecture at all. Sometimes it is a powerful, useful meditation to stop looking for reasons, you know?

Either you are committed to remaining for the benefit of all sentient beings, or you are committed to returning for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Sometimes it is even possible to contemplate both commitments as having the same, simultaneous presence, as when one recovers from a dream yet still thinks of the dream. In such event, the fleeting death is always with us, the fleeting life is always with us, so we aren't resting anywhere and we aren't going anywhere.

It is unnecessary and therefore useless to be afraid of death, or to be saddened by death or its rumors. Some say it is necessary to "prepare" for death, but even there you may get an argument. For example, Patrul Rinpoche once said that the most important thing is to be kind. He said that you can leave all the fancy meditation for the moment of death, because then you'll be meditating anyway.

Today is very beautiful. Right now is very beautiful. The sun is setting, there is a rabbit munching grass a few feet away from me, and everywhere I look, all of the wishes of my heart are constantly fulfilled.

It would be wrong to take anymore of this moment with thoughts of some other moment.

Did you know that if you bow your head to rabbits, they will hop right up to you?

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