By Marjorie Horne
I am sure many of you realize that as I write these columns, I am reminding myself of something I need to remember. As I do, I hope that perhaps there are some of you reading that are needing the same reminder in your own life.
In November, my husband and I were faced with the reality that two of the major arteries in his heart were very close to being 100 per cent blocked.
When life presents scary situations, our mind wants to go into the future, believing there is some comfort in preparing, making plans should things go wrong, analyzing things from all angles so that we feel safer. Alas, the opposite happens. As I have noticed personally, we return to a state of worry and without conscious awareness, old dysfunctional patterns of behavior begin to take over. In a sense, we are trying to control the fear and the body reacts by going into a state of fight, flight or freeze. We each have our own habitual behaviors that go along with this desire to control. Mine are: I work incessantly; I stop calling my friends; I start projecting my anxiety on to others and I begin to feel disconnected, with myself and with those around me. In a nutshell, life loses its sense of aliveness and joy. ‘Whoa,’ I finally say to myself, “What’s going on?” Yes, I am afraid of my husband dying, of being alone, of what might happen as we move along this aging journey. A close call can do that to you and sometimes you don’t even realize the cumulative, layering effect that facing impermanence is having on you and also on those you love. You need to stop and find some breathing space. Come back to the present and be still.
Two things that many people who are dying say they regret are 1) I wish I had had the courage to live true to myself and less to the expectations of others and 2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. We are all distracted by the concept that “there is not enough time.” This thought activates our sympathetic nervous system and makes it difficult to be present and feel connected. Living fully in each moment is living on purpose. Being aware of what is going on around you but more importantly, being aware of what is going on within you, opens what in the Buddhist tradition is called the dharma doorways or the pathway to wisdom.
There is great insight into the three characteristics of reality that they describe. The first is called dukkha. It is a quality of unsatisfactoriness or wanting things different. We are not at ease or feel incomplete. Resting in awareness in the moment comes more easily when we stop being constantly on our way to something. Dukkha leads us towards resistance to the future and to getting stuck in worry. The second dharma doorway is annicha, which means that everything is impermanent, everything changes. If we open to the radical impermanence of all experience, including the truth of our own mortality, we discover the natural capacity to let go.
Taking the time to create the “space between the logs” is worth every minute you give it. Take some time today to do it for your own well-being, and as you do, let this open space be filled with the energy of gratitude. You’ll be glad you did. I feel better already.