My current method of practice sees me not beginning a new cycle of the 21 Lamrim meditations, but instead starting a short ‘retreat’ on on particular Lamrim meditation, until the first of January, when the cycle will begin again.
The subject of my retreat this month will be death and impermanence. I am getting a feeling of starting to be swept along in samsara’s currents, and I want to ground myself again on a more realistic footing. Death and impermanence meditations are the way to get perspective on life’s distractions and refocus on what is truely meaningful.
I began the meditation today by making the appropriate preparations for meditation, and the started the contemplation with an internal dialogue about my death. I tried to be as honest with myself as possible.
Q: Do you really believe you will die?
A: Truthfully? No.
Q: Why is it that you do not think you will die?
Q: But now you are thinking about it, do you really think you will die?
A: No. My normal view is that my death is simply beyond any possibility. I recognise that I could lose my job at some point in the future, for example, and I am concerned about that. But somehow me dying is just not in the same catagory of understanding, therefore I am not worried about it at all.
Q: Why is it not in the same category as, say, losing your job?
A: Losing my job seems entirely possible. Dying is just not the same kind of thing. It seems impossible, although superficially I know that everyone dies.
Q: What do you tell yourself, if you every think: I may die?
A: I tell myself ‘I will not die’, and I reassure myself with this simple statement. I don’t think more deeply.
Q: Why are you satisfied with this statement and why do you let it convince you that you will not die?
A: Because dying is such a massive thing, that I don’t even want to start to begin to think about the slightest possibility that it might happen.
Q: Is that sensible?
A: No. Not in the least. It’s a stupid deception to accept.
Q: Then why do you accept it?
A: Because it is easier to accept it and carry on as normal than to face the truth and have to change everything? It’s too big a disruption to my normal life to have to think ‘I might die today’.
Q: What changes would you have to make?
A: I would have a completely different perspective. I don’t like having to change.
Q: Given that you are going to die, and it could happen today, is your dislike of change even relevant? It’s not like you not liking change is going to stop you dying.
A: I have no answer. There is no valid reason which I can believe in which demonstrates that I will not die.
My thought process was something like what I have written above, and at the end I felt like I had been stripped of any protection from death. Although the ‘protection’ I believed I had was simply faulty logic, nevertheless I felt very naked when it was gone.
It felt like beforehand, I was standing on a platform miles and miles above death, not moving towards it and protected from it.
Now it felt like that platform had vanished. In fact, it felt like that platform had never been there at all, and it was a false image which gave me comfort. And although I had felt like I was standing on a solid platform, in fact I was and always have been falling fast towards death.
I felt like I was falling towards death with nothing to stop me.
I focused on this feeling of falling towards death – naked of any protection. It felt like I was naked in my heart. I focused on this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings examine their view of death, and try to come to terms with how to live their life.
Practice in the Meditation Break
Between doing this meditation, and writing this blog post, without any effort, I am constantly thinking about what I really want to do with today, and how I want to spend it.