And how often do we each flirt with death every day?
This morning was not unlike most other mornings. Waking up around 5:30 a.m., I carry our 15-year-old Chow Chow downstairs as she is far too weak to do it on her own. The only difference this morning was that my Wife was sleeping on the couch downstairs because of a terrible cold she has been battling for several days. So being as quiet as I could to allow her to sleep, I proceeded with my normal routine. Letting the two dogs outside for their morning constitution, while I started the computer and the coffee machine.
As I gathered the creamer and sugar for my coffee, I put a K-cup in the machine to begin the first brew of the day. But an odd noise disturbed my Zen-like process. At first sounding like our cat crying, as though it was trapped somewhere and could not get out. My foggy brain struggled to discern what it was that I was actually hearing at that moment. But before I could clearly identify it, the Wife bolted from the couch and screamed for me to come as she sped toward the front door. It registered immediately at that point that our poor elderly Chow Chow had fallen outside and was screaming in agony for help. Barefooted and in my robe, I bolted out the door without hesitation to find her and help her. In the darkness of the early morning it was difficult to see where she was. But quickly I saw that she was in the middle of our driveway, with legs sprawled-out in all directions. The freezing temperatures had created a sheet of black ice on our asphalt drive.
Down the sidewalk I flew until hitting the driveway of ice, then suddenly I was thrust into the same predicament as my poor dog. My feet flew out from under me while I twisted my arms and body to avoid falling. Thank Buddha, I managed to remain upright and not go down! Now to pick up my dog and carry her back in the house. On a sheet of ice, with an old dog squirming in my arms, likely in pain, I gingerly balanced and danced my way back in the house. Our little girl (Chow Chow) seemed to be none the worse from the experience, and thankfully I too was in one piece. Giving her a kiss on the nose and a tasty morning biscuit, she seemed to take it all in stride. My heart however was still beating out of my chest.
Having calmed down and enjoying my first coffee, I decided it was a good time to sit. And no sooner than I began my loving-kindness meditation, it became abundantly clear that I just had a brush with death. And I don’t mean this in a melodramatic way, but in reality. Fore if I had not caught my balance, that fall could have broken my hip, cracked my skull, or even give a spinal injury. That split second was the only thing that separated the happy and peaceful life that I have from one of nothingness. And with this heightened awareness, it became clear that each of us face this reality all the time. While most of us would say that we understand life is fragile, how many of us have a deeper understanding of how close we are to it? That we are each less than a moment away from death. And while I know that many of you may see this as a depressing thought, I think the Right View is one of encouragement and joy. I could feel this so strongly in myself as I observed it in my practice. Thinking how wonderful that I am alive right now, in this moment. And understanding clearly that there is no next moment or past moment, only this moment to be grateful for. To be kind and loving toward the self, to be joyful for taking care of the self, and to offer this same compassion and love to our Family, friends and the World.
As much as anyone, I easily get swept away with the hustle and bustle of daily life. Responsibilities can turn into stories, and soon the monkey in our mind is having a field day. But the reality is that we are only a step away, a blink of the eye, from having no life at all. And I think that with an appreciation of this fragile state we occupy, perhaps each moment can become everything to each one of us. One which encompasses complete awareness, gratitude, loving-kindness and compassion. And I hope that each of us can make that moment, into this moment, right now.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.