Recently, I was gifted Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening. It’s a daybook on mindfulness…a guide on having the life you want by being present to the life you have. This morning, I did a guided meditation and the teacher stated that meditation is about waking up. Hmm, maybe that’s my theme for the day. It is January 1, a day a lot of us use to start anew or reset. In a sense, it’s kind of like waking up again after another year of falling asleep to our lives.
“There is a Buddhist precept that asks us to be mindful of how rare it is to find ourselves in human form on Earth.” How very true. How lucky we are. This reminds me of something a friend of mine once told me that really stuck with me: If we knew how hard our souls fought and how lucky we are to have gotten into this human body, we wouldn’t be trying so hard to resist everything that comes with it.
Really, what a fuckin blessing it is to have an individual spirit filled with consciousness. To be able to feel these emotions that we suffer so much from. I could’ve been a cow or a spider. A tree. Rain. But I am a human. And I am fortunate enough to feel the suffering of watching my father being courted by death. To feel frustrated and sometimes neglected in a relationship with a loving partner. To watch X-Files on Netflix, read books by Dostoevsky, take shits in a toilet, and then to write about all of this and put it out there for others to see. Gratitude is not lost on me. But, sometimes (a lot of the times), I get lost in my emotions.
The meditation prompt involved sitting outside and noting the other life forms around me. Thinking about the things that they could do that I couldn’t, and the things that I could do that they couldn’t. I live in the hills where there are a lot of trees and other living beings. I’ve seen deer, coyote, skunks, and many, many birds. As I stood by the edge of the hill, I could hear the crunching of leaves somewhere below. I was filled with excitement, suspecting I might see a deer. Then I heard some shuffling under a cover for our barbeque that I had just moved out of the way. I froze. Upon hearing the noise again, I walked quickly back to the patio. As much as I love nature and think animals are simply awe inspiring, I’m pretty scared of them.
I took some time to compose myself, watered some plants and went back. I stood by the cover as I attempted to be okay with whatever might be there. Then a bird darted out and flew across me. I freaked the fuck out and ran back to my house, laughing at how ridiculous I felt. Why do I get so scared of animals? I sat in contemplation…
Uncertainty. Not only do I just not know much about their behaviors in general, but I have no idea what they might do. At least with humans, I’m pretty confident that they’re not going to jump on me and start scratching my eyes out. Although, it is possible. And I also acknowledge the fact that it’s probably just as unlikely that an animal would do that to me either. But, I just don’t have enough experience around them to feel safe. It made me think of racism and prejudice. How most people have these irrational fears or beliefs because they just haven’t had enough interaction with people that are seemingly so different from them.
Then, it got me thinking about death (sigh, good old death). The ultimate unknowable. We will never know for certain what happens when we die. Yet, we all have to do it…with certainty. I think that’s why it’s so terrifying. We like knowing. We crave certainty. So instead of letting death serve as a reminder and a guide for what’s important, we avoid it and instead spend our whole lives trying to build a false sense of security. So then, what should we do instead? I don’t know…that’s what I’m trying to figure out.