This Precious Life

My understanding of Zen and “the most important thing” can be summarized as intimacy with life and death. We are all learning how to live. Why is it so challenging to welcome each moment as a gift?

Life and death include joy and sorrow, sickness and health, yet we so often choose to welcome the “good” moments and fight against, deny or feel victimized by the “bad”. This self-protective strategy doesn’t work. We become partially numb, rarely fully opening our hearts, minds and bodies to “What Is”. Life and death are inseparable. Learning to simultaneously experience “it all”, right in these wise and vulnerable bodies, is the task of “The Embodied Life”.

I recently heard an astounding story about Dostoyevsky, through American author David Brooks, that profoundly speaks to me:

In 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was imprisoned in St Petersburg and sentenced to die with other revolutionaries. Wearing burial shrouds the men faced the firing squad. The drums sounded as the rifles were pointed, death imminent. At that moment, by plan, a messenger rode in on horseback announcing that the Czar cancelled the execution. The original sentence of hard labor was reinstated.

The reactions were varied: one man went crazy, another cried as he sang “long live the czar”. When Dostoyevsky went back to his cell he was overcome with joy. “I cannot recall when I was ever so happy as on that day. I walked up and down my cell, singing the whole time at the top of my voice, so happy at being given back my life”.

Writing to his brother, “And only then did I know how much I loved you my dear brother. When I look back upon my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing…how little I appreciated it – then my heart bleeds. Never has there seethed in me such an abundant and healthy kind of spiritual life as now……Life is a gift. Life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness. Life is everywhere, life is in ourselves, not in the exterior”.

Remember, he was still in a dark prison, sentenced to hard labor, when he had these though
Gratitude, just for life itself, pervaded his momen.
Life and death are a pair. These are our teachers. Whatever is occurring IS your life! 

There is always room for sorrow, grief, pain, just as there is an undivided, open space for joy, gratitude and love…..

Together we are learning to truly live This Precious Life!