The Ultimate Welcome Mat
(I wrote this on February 11, 2003)
Threats of war and terrorism flood the media. Department of Homeland Security officials say that Washington, DC, is a target. I live in DC. I work in DC. I jog in DC. I go to the gym in DC. I do my grocery shopping in DC. I am almost always within a mile or two of the White House, the Capitol, and the Pentagon. My own local Post Office 20024 was shut down due to Anthrax contamination.
Then again, I could live without snail-mail indefinitely ;-)
I don't know why I am more susceptible to these sorts of threats than the everyday risk of dying, perhaps from latent heart defects, or undiagnosed cancer, or being hit by an SUV while crossing the street. More people die each year from garden-variety murders in this city than died from Anthrax exposure, or even from the crash into the Pentagon. Really, I should be more scared of crime than of terrorist plots.
Heh ... that's not exactly comforting.
When I pulled a muscle in my back a couple weeks ago, I was in a tremendous amount of pain. I could barely move for 3 days.
I decided to use some of these secret Buddhist mind tricks ... so I welcomed the pain.
The pain didn't go away, but ... my welcoming approach to the pain changed my experience of the pain. I still took medication to ease the pain -- ibuprofen, Kava Kava, and a narcotic sleep aid -- but the injury didn't drag my mood down. I still had friends over, got to spend hours nekkid with a HOT man, and enjoyed living :-)
Can I enjoy dying?
Opinions about life-after-death abound ... Heaven, Hell, Reincarnation, etc. Some people claim to have memories of past lives. Some people return from "near-death" experiences with astounding stories of reunification with dead loved ones.
Near-death is not death. The reason we are able to bring these people back is because they aren't really dead yet. You aren't dead the moment you stop breathing. I can stop breathing right now!
Hmmmm ... my heart is still beating ... I've held my breath for nearly a minute now ...
Heh, enough of that.
Plus, you aren't dead the moment your heart stops beating. I can't demonstrate this for you, because my heart muscle is involuntary, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
Death is a process, it takes a while for all the individual cells in your body to die. This is why organ donation works.
Defining death can be difficult ... especially if you disallow enbalming or cremation ... because left alone the human body never completely dies ... it merely transforms ... it becomes food for other organisms ...
If death is the end of consciousness, I can't exactly welcome it (or resist it), because "I" won't be there. If death is something else, then perhaps I'll like it more than life. Either way, all the evidence suggests that I'll die sooner or later. Death is inevitable.
What good does it do me to fear it? Especially to fear it in abstract ways? Especially when the means and moment are out of my control?
We are taught from a young age to avoid danger, because the people who care about us don't want to lose us.
Then we learn the concept of death for ourselves ... and we avoid danger because we don't want to lose ourselves.
Death is, then, the ultimate in letting go.
Letting go is not abandonment. Letting go is not pushing away. Letting go of life is not the same thing as suicide. Letting go is ... letting go ... dropping the leash, relaxing the muscles, admitting that we can't really hold on.
Just as we can put out a welcome mat for pain, we can also put out a welcome mat for death. It will come. We may as well make it -- and ourselves -- comfortable.
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