If one lives a long life, a great teaching is built into the process of growing old. In our prime, we have so much to work with, such as the ability to see with good vision, muscles that work instantly, hips that attract lovers as we walk down the street. To this we could add a sharp memory, astute perceptions, energy to spare, a body that works for us and rarely against us.
Upon this rock, of mind and body, we build our empire. But slowly, one element or ability at a time, as we age, begins to fail. Appointments that are important to us, we find, happened yesterday at two o’clock, not today. Phone calls that we wanted to return, are remembered at 3’oclock in the morning, and not yesterday afternoon when they were due to be made.
Walking with a younger person to a car seems as if he or she is in a race that reminds you that you should be exercising much more than you have time for. And with these fumblings, you feel a sense of embarrassment, and even shame.
While we strive to lessen these social blunders, and increasing shortcomings, we may be somewhat comforted in knowing that this is part of the process designed to teach us, on an accelerated program, self acceptance, and self forgiveness.
Acceptance of what is, is our release from suffering. Forgiving ourselves allows us to forgive others. Both of these end the pressure we may feel to control the behavior of others, or make them see the truth that we see, which constantly prods us to push harder, control more, work, even strive to change everything and make the world and our own lives what we want for it to be.
Acceptance of whatever is includes acceptance of our own actions or inaction in response to whatever is. That is, if we see an injustice in the world, our response to stop it should also be accepted without guilt or shame, nor pride or arrogance.
Life increasingly removes what we were standing upon as absolutes and slowly or quickly teaches us to let go of each aspect of the conviction that we are this way or that. Until the ultimate removal of our beliefs, where our very body drops away and we stand there looking at it and wondering why everyone is getting so upset. “I’m right here, what’s the problem? I feel better than I’ve felt since I was a child.”
We have let go of all identity, even with the body and life we thought we were. The release from the belief that we were all of that, and were responsible for making everything go a certain way, is enormous, indeed, ecstatic. We see that the absence of fear is ecstasy! “Why didn’t I let it all go when I was alive? It feels fantastic.”
When I had my first heart attack, in 1992, I lay in a hospital bed. They had hooked me up to a bag of morphine. I was alone in the hospital room they had wheeled me into. The morphine gave me a sense of sublime joy. I had been day dreaming that angels had surrounded me, and I was speaking with them. They gave me an image. It was an energy symbol I had painted for many years, in salmon pink and light orange, sherbert colors, and I was told that it was my spiritual name. I had just realized that the absence of fear was ecstasy. I was amazed at how morphine could so totally rid me of all fears so as to produce this astounding feeling of bliss.
My partner of fifteen years came into the room. As she sat by my bedside, a code 9 sounded and suddenly the room filled with nurses and doctors. They escorted her quickly out of the room. They were all over their instruments. Many years later, in a conversation, my partner told me that when she had looked at the monitor screen, it had flat lined just before the hospital staff had rushed in. In short, it was not the morphine that had imparted such a feeling of divine pleasure, but my death. Not knowing that I was dead, I lay there when she came into the room, eager to tell her how great I felt. Now I understand that death is not only nothing to fear, but something to look forward to, with the one exception, and I quote a great bumper sticker: “You don’t have to die to go into the light!”
As we begin to fall apart, on whatever level that takes place, we are being led carefully to full-fledged release of all of the beliefs and false identification we have, with our body, with our mind, even with being human. We are none of it, yet all of it is who we are, but not, as we are told, only a small and separate part of the universe. We have a necessary “point of view”, but don’t be fooled. We wouldn’t want to be everything and seeing from every point of view, at least not yet. One point of view is plenty to deal with. From this set of eyes, we get to experience being both part of a vast and magnificent whole universe and with a little more relaxation and letting go of that, we may live from the realization that we are this magnificent whole. As awareness itself, we feast upon all aspects, as we please. Aging is a gift, that leads us, piece by piece, embarrassing experience by social faux pas, toward an ecstasy that comes with letting everything go, and accepting all as it is, including our blundering selves. From grasping at nothing, the feast of Being begins.
Article and Cover painting by Ross G. Drago
Paint Rag Magazine