Posted in Miscellany

*After Ecstasy, The Laundry

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.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

13 thoughts on “*After Ecstasy, The Laundry

  1. One of those wonderful stories from Jack Kornfield that makes one tingle all over.

    And speaking of tingling all over, I have finally stopped generated extreme heat. Although menopause is not an illness and, like all symptoms of being alive and getting older, we should really be happy to be having them rather than the alternative (being dead), it is a relief 🙂

    1. Dorothy, someone once suggested to me doing that visually with anything that caused anxiety, to move back and back in my mind’s eye until I saw the earth from space. It sounded good in theory but didn’t work too well for me at the time. But if I can just settle into the love that is here and now, it does the same thing.

  2. Jean, I’m glad to hear that it doesn’t last forever! These latest ones sure are warm.

    Dorothy–that’s something I still wrestle with–the little worries can loom so big, esp when it comes to my kids.

    Sulo, thank you for coming by and leaving a comment.

  3. I am already getting hot!! Can I recommend taking sage as a tincture? It seems to help me enormously. And I love those lines by Jack Kornfield, and I love yours even more, Lilian. I struggle so hard with accepting my own anger, anxiety and distress, and the real wisdom lies in recognising how important they are to the human spirit, how unavoidable. Worth remembering every day.

    1. Margaret, last night it went down to 10C. I had the window wide open and a cold wet cloth beside the bed, in case I needed it, which I did. I am well on my way to melting snow. (Don’t tell anyone, but climate change isn’t really caused by pollution; it’s just that the earth is going through menopause.)

  4. I’m well acquainted with “personal summers” as one of my friends call them. Mine have been around for nearly a decade – they wax and wane, thankfully.

    If Mother Earth is going through menopause, no wonder she’s grouchy!

    1. A decade! OMG. I’m glad to hear at least they wax and wane. Wonderful phrase! I once thought of writing a story about the power of hormonal women. I think I would be able to do so from a more personal perspective now. 😉

  5. Sage is available in many forms from a good health store (she says sounding like a talking advert!). I have mine as a tincture and the label recommends taking it daily 1-2mm in a little bit of water. You can easily take it in pill form but a tincture digests quicker and better.

    This is very similar to what I take:

    And I love the idea of the earth having a menopause! It seems so likely, somehow….

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