Thursday, 27 October 2016

All souls

These past few weeks, despite the bright sunshine, there is a definite coolness to the air. The leaves are turning colour, falling. The evenings are growing dark. It's a time when nature dies back. As opposed to springtime, when nature springs into life. The rising up of things is life. The falling back is death. This is how we know we know the world.

The Feast of All Souls is next week, perhaps eclipsed somewhat by the Halloween parties. It's a time for fun, but also a time to remember about lost loved ones, and death in general. Death tells us what it means to be alive. Living tells us what it is to be dead.  The border between living and dying is porous, at least at this time of year.

Usually when we remember a person's life, we remember stories. And when you think of your own life, you probably also think of it as a story. You know how the story starts, and you wonder how it's going to end. When the story ends, that is death. We repeat the stories of our ancestors as a way of keeping them alive.

But I wonder, is life really a story? Or is the story something extra, the mind's attempt to make sense of events? When I sit in silent meditation the mind grows quiet and the storying stops. There is just this breath, this body, this carpet, this room. This present moment doesn't need a story. It just is. And there is life. The ending of story is not the end of life.

In quiet meditation, phenomena arise in awareness. A breath arises: this is life. A thought arises: this is also life. A sensation in my knee arises: this is life. Not "my life", not anyone's life, just life.

And also, each phenomenon passes away. Each breath finishes: this is death. Each though ends: this is death. The sensation in my knee changes, goes away: this is death. Not "my death", not anyone's death, just death.

So to meditate means to hang out with living and dying. Not my living and dying, not anyone's living and dying; just the living and dying of all things. The border between living and dying is porous: where can you find a dividing line in this constant living-and-dying? Even in the springtime, something is passing. And even in the autumn, there is life.

Have a happy Halloween, and enjoy the long weekend!