I have been thinking about studying death, wavering today between resisting what is in front of me, and engaging full-on by choice. I have these waves of reluctance, of hesitation, of holding back, that plunge me into a rigid mindset that makes me feel like I have no choice in the matters of my life.
It’s a terrible feeling, but one that has followed me throughout much of my life.
It feels like I’m dying. And it doesn’t feel good.
When this comes up, I am reminded of a short story I heard about once, that was the tale of a Japanese couple who had terrible money troubles. They were in such bad shape, that they made a pact to kill themselves, rather than continue to live under the burden of their debts. But when they immersed themselves in their suicide pact, and they prepared to die, they realized that a different kind of death was freeing them – the willingness to die at any time.
They essentially died to their present lives and plunged head-first into a quality of living that cause them to “die” to the life they wanted to leave – without needing to physically kill themselves.
And they were free.
I have no idea who wrote the story – I just heard/read about it one day – but the lesson stays with me. The act of dying, the choice to die, can take many forms. You can end your physical life. Or you can end your dependency on a certain type of physical life. You can end a certain outlook that has been “life” to you. You can be ready to die – physically or mentally or spiritually – at any time.
And this sort of death can be studied, though the types of vital energy that are released feel quite different to me. The vital energy released from studying my physical/material death feels much more physically compelling, than, say, the vital energy released from studying the end of a certain mental or spiritual frame of mind/being. It is all a kind of dying, and it can all be studied, while sitting.
I’ve been studying it this morning, as I’ve gone through the actions of my day — actions I do not want to participate in, but must, because this is my job and this is where I am right now. Letting go of that kind of thought, that mindset which pits me against what is right in front of me… letting that die… it’s making today better than bearable. It’s making it fine. Rising and falling. As it is.
Shosan talks about the importance of doing zazen in the course of your day, not just at appointed times. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done for years, even before I ever found out about Shosan. I do it, not because he recommends it, but because it makes sense.
As it is.