My favourite part of After Ecstasy, The Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfeld is this story, paraphrased.
When a Buddhist master was dying, his disciples crowded around his bed, eager to hear his last words of wisdom. He was very ill and in pain and couldn’t get comfortable in his bed. Sighing, he looked at each of them, his attention seeming to wander. Finally he said, “You want to see how an enlightened teacher dies?” They all nodded, leaning forward to hear his wise words, to watch each gesture for even in the movement of a finger there might be a koan to puzzle out. He flailed, tossing his head, kicking his legs, throwing out his arms and cried out, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.” Then he smiled.
What a relief! And that is the gist of this book about awareness and mindfulness. We are all prey to fear, crabbiness, jealousy, envy, anxiety, greed, as well as joy, compassion, bliss (and probably more often). Our spiritual journeys aren’t going to lead us to never-ending tranquility. Fear and anger are not failures, they are the human condition, as are love and empathy. It’s all about being human, physical, mortal in a changing, mortal world.
As a middle-aged woman, I am periodically generating a vast amount of heat. As A commented the other night, rolling away from me until I cooled down, a woman approaching menopause is like one of those enlightened yogis who can sit on a mountain peak, melting the snow around him while he meditates.
Even the earth has a lifespan and, in middle-age, has emphysema due to second hand smoke. We’d better quit before she decides to kick her self-centred, irresponsible kids out of the nest. There is time–we just need to turn down the volume, take a breath and look at where we are.