I am dying. Don’t think that I’ve been keeping a secret. No, without a doubt, this is simply the state of things—for me and for all energies. As soon as I think these words (not even say them), a quiet panic sets in. My stomach tightens. I get a headache. My pulse races, and I am extremely alert. I immediately begin a reality check.
The sunrise is still breathtaking. An unidentified bird’s nest, hosting two different kinds of eggs, is still nestled in the spring wreath near the back door. The half-empty seed packet of Swiss Chard is still bundled where I left it yesterday. These things confirm that I am still connected to the universe. In ways great and small, I identify with each of these visions. I want to keep them with me. To embrace them. To not let them slip away.
Thinking the words, I am dying, points to a duality that confronts me. On one hand, what I love, know, and don’t want to let go of—what I’m identifying with—people, animals, plants or material goods will eventually become memories. So, I cling even more intensely. On the other hand, it is this constant clinging that causes more distress, regret, and disappointment—all forms of suffering—as I live and approach my death.
“We are dominated by everything with which we are identified, and we have dominion over everything from which we disidentify.”
~Roberto Assagioli, Italian psychiatrist and pioneer in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology
During the first half of life, I devoted love, purpose, and time in raising children, getting to know people, working my careers, volunteering, and trying to understand life.
Now, during the second half of life, I’m learning more about me. I appreciate that all my earlier interactions contributed to the truth of who I am. Yet, it goes deeper. Now I understand that I don’t need labels or other external measures to prove my truth. Loving relationships with family and friends matter most and not having to strive or protect anything softens my heart.
Practicing living simply; appreciating, accepting, and then letting go of circumstances; and connecting with others in love inspires living fully and dying well. When I identify with anything that I feel I MUST have, INSIST on, have PREFERENCES for, or DEPEND on, it means that I am tightening my heart which is a form of resistance. The antidote? Enjoy everything in life without controlling. No clinging. This approach offers independence and freedom, a way to live L A R G E L Y.
How do I stop clinging? I begin with small and seemingly insignificant things. How about a Snickers Bar? I appreciate its flavor, texture, and how it makes me smile. There was a time when I thought I had to have a bar every day—and, for a while, I did—just the small size, of course! Not going to the vending machine for this treat gave me cause for an attitude adjustment. Now I live in a body that sickens at the addition of sugar. Excluding Snickers Bars makes me feel better, even if I do think about them from time to time.
Losing a favorite pair of earrings, however, is another level of intensity that would send me into a tail spin of clinging. If I received the earrings as a gift, it would be very difficult not to feel highly emotional or rant and rave in an attitude of lack for days. I would cling to their memory or to the memory of the person who gave them to me. Initially, I would not forgive myself for having lost them. Eventually, I noticed that this thought affected other parts of my life in a negative way. Over time, practice in letting go of experiences, not clinging, showed me that this was not a life or death matter. Rather, it was an extremely unfortunate one: one attributed to humanness.
Consider the picture at the top of this narrative. Assuming the role of the mama bird, I would be faced with a much greater level of intensity regarding clinging: the safety of my four, unhatched eggs. Arriving at my nest, I would find the addition of a larger, whitish-brown egg with markings—probably from the neighborhood, brown-headed cowbird. She used my nest for brood parasitism. This is her mode of operation: She expected me to hatch and feed her egg.
More than forgotten Snickers Bars and lost earrings, based on my species, I might cling to my eggs and eject the odd egg from the nest. I could abandon the nest but would lose my own brood. Or perhaps I would hatch all the eggs and feed all the babies—taking a chance that the loud cries of the baby cowbird might attract predators. Hatching and feeding new chicks is both a sacrifice and an inconvenience on many levels. Do I cling or let go? Nature can be cruel.
Human again, I have practiced letting go of somewhat insignificant things. This is helpful preparation as I realize that I am dying a little each day. I recognize that people, animals, plants, and material goods can slip away, and that’s all right. I have no need to forever embrace them or to keep them with me. They are meant to be shared with the universe.
From a higher vantage: I pay attention to people and things in my environment, value them for their role in my life, am grateful for them, and yet understand that, at some point, I will not be taking them with me as I die. I feel safe, loved, and free because I do not hang on to, identify with, or cling to that which is around me. Love accompanies my essence.
© 2019 in the thick of things