A terminal ill patient has invited me along as he prepares for death. How do I do this? he asked yesterday; the timing and circumstances of my end are out of my control. Yet I like to control things, in fact I’m obsessed with it. I want to let go and hold on, all at the same time.
We sat in silence and I noticed my impulse to rush in with advice and insights. Luckily I held back, listening intently. Yes, those sound like irreconcilable postures, I agreed. Just imagine making the basket larger: instead of forcing a choice of this over that, imagine holding both at the same time with curiosity. Something like, I like to control things and there are things I cannot control. Simply notice them. Don’t act. Notice your reactions. Don’t rush. Observe.
A nurse entered to tell the patient that he’d have to move from his single to a shared room. They kicked me out, he told me in the hallway, half complaining and half mocking himself. There it is, I said, a real-life example of change beyond your control. You like your privacy, you had the room arranged just-so … and snap! … everything changed. What goes on inside right now, I asked, gesturing towards his heart. I feel hurt and rejected, he replied.
Did you know, I told him, that you made space for someone who’s close to death? She and her loved-ones now have a few hours of privacy because of your move. How does that feel? A moment’s silence, then tears: of course, how selfish of me; my troubles are nothing compared to those of others … and knowing that changes the way I see things. Isn’t that something!
And so our conversation went. We talked a bit about how certain events trigger certain reactions … and about the always available option to open our heart of compassion. I wonder, he said, whether I might perhaps become a little more compassionate towards myself — less judgemental, more accepting.
The fact is that the heart is always open (writes Ezra Bayda). However, the pathway to this heart is blocked by years of conditioning. It is overgrown with protections, pretenses, deeply held core beliefs, pictures of who we think we should be, fears, anger, confusion, and our resistance to life as it is.
source: Bayda, E. (2003). being zen: bringing meditation to life. Boston: Shambala, p.82. image: birthingfromwithin.com