Free to Live

In his book, "Who Dies?", Stephen Levine tells the story of a Thai meditation master responding to the question of a student regarding how one can ever find happiness in life when all things are impermanent and pass away. The master was holding a glass of water and he responded that he dealt with this by viewing the glass as already broken. In this way, seeing it as already broken, he was able to enjoy it in every moment. Then, when it inevitably broke, he would say, "Of course". The idea is to view everything in life as already dead so as to better be able to be present with it in the moment—our loved ones, our spouse, our children, and ourselves. By doing this, the exquisiteness of life itself opens up to us.

 I'm struck by the power in this idea. How many times do I suffer when I think of the loss of a loved one? It is almost as if the contemplation of the inevitable death of someone I love causes grief and suffering way before the event actually takes place. The real pearl of wisdom in embracing death, is that it allows us to be present for life, to be present in each moment, and to treasure the beauty of Now.

I'm wondering how empowered I would feel to do, say, and experience certain things if I could adopt this radical view, for in actuality, it is the truth. All things will die. The present moment passes away in a continuous stream. We are constantly surrounded with the death of the present, each second ticking away, leaving behind the death of what was. The only thing alive is this moment. Time is really a type of prison where the only freedom lies in seizing the present and being radically aware of the split seconds that constitute our escape from living a life of mundane existence.

Rather than creating a careless recklessness, this creates an aliveness that recognizes that it is all passing away right before our eyes and with this discovery comes an enlivened commitment to be engaged with life. Life and death are intimate partners in the dance of life here on earth. By embracing death, we are truly free to live.