Last week I headed to Albany in Western Australia’s great southern region to visit my parents.
I’m sure Mum and Dad won’t mind me saying this (too much) but they’re getting well old ☺️
And though they’re both remarkably physically and mentally well, the reality is they are both unwilling, but accepting, recipients of what comes with ageing process.
Mum wishes she was 80 years old still, ‘because up and till the age of 80 i could still do everything’ she says.
A week before my visit Dad phones and asks me:
“Luke, what are you favourite ‘Mum-meals’?
What favourite dishes would you like Mum to prepare for you when you visit next week?
Honestly my initial (internal) response was that I didn’t want to create any additional ‘work-load-stress’ during my visit, and I was completely happy to eat whatever & whenever they ate.
However, I was pleased that I didn’t verbalise this to Dad there and then over the phone, I simply said ‘that’s awesome thanks...I’ll give it some thought and will email you in a day or two.’
Which I did…
There is nothing, and I mean nothing better, more comforting, more memorable than your Mum’s cooking…no matter how old you are…
There is nothing like Mum’s cooking to transport you back in time…to a comfortable, worry-free time of your childhood than home cooked food…except when Brussel sprouts were served…still not a fan
Now, what struck me most when I put the phone down and reflected on the conversation I’d just had with Dad was how touching the call was.
Though he didn’t outrightly say it during the phone-conversation, what I gleaned from the short chat (and this was later confirmed with a conversation I had with them during my visit) was this:
We’re not sure how much time we have left, and this ‘may‘ be the last time Mum can cook for you – cook you the foods that were served with love and care growing up.
How lovely is that!?
Here are the only two people I’ve literally known all my life (apart from my siblings), who are seemingly very happy, content and most importantly, at peace with where they’re at in life and very accepting about what’s next.
Now I may have a bald head and have a penchant for guttural chanting, yaks milk & crimson undies but believe it not…I’m no Buddhist…I know, it’s hard to believe
However for some reason in my 20’s whilst living in London, I used to read quite of bit of Buddhist philosophy. I was particularly impressed and very fond of a Buddhist Lama & teacher named Sogyal Rinpoche, affectionately known as the Laughing Lama…I like my gurus, teachers, mentors to laugh, smile, and crack jokes. I tend to turn off if they’re too academic, serious or are unable or unwilling to smile.
Rinpoche (which means a religious teacher held in high regard among Tibetan Buddhists) wrote, amongst other books, the internationally bestselling spiritual classic Buddha You Fat Bastard…no, no, no sorry that was Salman Rushdie‘s follow up title to the The Satanic Verses.
Sogyal’s book was called The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. An inspiring, and comforting manual for life & death. Rinpoche’s stated aim is “to inspire a quiet revolution in the whole way we look at death and care for the dying, and the whole way we look at life, and curing for the living.”
I was reminded of my earlier times spent with Sogyal (sadly/happily – depends how you look it at i guess – he passed away last year) when visiting my parents this past week. During my time with them and the subsequent conversations we shared, it reminded me to revisit and remind myself of some of the Buddhist philosophies that had resonated so strongly with me back in the early 90’s…when I was affectionately known as grasshopper.(see…not.a.Buddhist)
And here’s some of what peaked my interest back then, and again, and even more so, now.
Buddha and the 4 Noble Truths
1. There is suffering and constant dissatisfaction in the world. “Life is difficult and brief and bound up with suffering.”
2. Suffering is caused by our desires, and thus ‘attachment is the root of all suffering.’
3. We can transcend suffering by removing or managing all our attachments. Buddha makes the profound claim that we must change our outlook, not our circumstance…this runs parallel with many philosophical thinkers, particularly the Stoics. We are unhappy not because we don’t have a pay raise or a lover, a big enough house, or enough ‘likes’ or ‘followers’, but because we are greedy, vain and insecure
By reorienting our mind, we can grow to be content
4. Buddha uncovered that we can learn to move beyond suffering through what he termed ‘the eightfold path’. The eightfold path involves a series of aspects of behaving ‘right and wisely’:
The Buddhist Wheel or more precisely The Dharmachakra
The Dharma Chakra is a widespread symbol used in Indian religions such as
Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism
Right view and right intention [wisdom]
Right speech, right action and right livelihood [ethics]
Right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration [Samādhi or state of meditative consciousness]
Wisdom is a habit, not just an intellectual realisation.
Buddha goes on to say ‘one must seek, exercise, train and protect ones’ nobler impulses’…understanding is only part of becoming a better person.’
The eightfold path, to me, seems like a pretty practical tool that we could apply to literally every facet of our life…particularly our health-wealth. As I’ve clumsily expressed in previous posts our ‘wellness’ is a reflection on how kind we are to ourselves…making the right choices in terms of what we eat, how we sleep, think, act and move is the purest form of self-kindness.
Yeah, yeah, yeah I hear ya…I’m too busy, I got too much on…
More of a reason then to pull-up your crimson undies and hack away at the unessential and apply daily the ‘eightfold’ ointment, I say!
“Spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric, it is in fact profound common sense.
When you realize the nature of mind, layers of confusion peel away.
You don’t actually “become” a buddha, you simply cease, slowly, to be deluded.
And being a buddha is not being some omnipotent spiritual superman,
but becoming at last a true human being.”
– Sogyal Rinpoche.
Life is not going on elsewhere
My own ongoing life-journey into philosophy & physical health demands that I visit the concept of death everyday.
Not with morbid fascination, but more so as an inspired tool for living now…use the motivation of your imminent death to inspire the days you have left.
None of us know when we’re going to go.
The reality is…
All going well and subject to no unexpected life threatening illnesses or injuries interrupting my longevity, I’ve got say roughly 35 years left.
That’s 35 summers…and I think we can all agree, the way these years fly-by… it’s going to be over pretty.bloody.quickly.
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”
– C.G. Jung
Keeping death as my close ally, especially now during the back-9 on my life, helps me to (constantly) recalibrate and face what is important…how I spend my time, while I got the time to do it.
I’m a realist and understand that there’s bills that need to be paid etc, but I’ve decided I’m not going to waste my time being a slave to ‘work’.
I got better things to do!
The choices I’ve made over the last 3 years has both challenged me & taught me a great deal, and the space and time that I’ve manifested, by hacking away at the unessential, has created a massive window of opportunity in my day.
An opportunity to do what I want…that’s luxury.
However this is a double-edged sword, the sacrifices associated with my choices not only demands new disciplines, but it proffers a whole new level of unexpected, and quite frankly exciting, new obstacles/challenges…the path ahead is completely open…which is daunting/awesome
It’s liberating, both exciting & scary and a massive ego-test…and that, for me, is inspires me.
Beware what you set your heart upon. For it surely shall be yours.
– R. Waldo Emerson
Appreciating our Existence
It would be impossible to waste time and not appreciate family, community and the environment we live in if we practiced focusing on the right view, the right intention, the right speech, the right action, the right livelihood, the right effort, the right mindfulness and the right concentration.
This remedy for living sounds like a pretty good, full-time proposition to me.
I’d be, and am, very happy to sacrifice working 50-60 hour weeks, whilst mindlessly converting my ‘free-time’ to being a slave to alcohol, over consumption, stress, ‘being-busy’ and oblivious to toxic news and information feeds. I can quantify my time practicing and exercising my nobler impulses…and finding contentment in the simplest of things…namely the health & growth of my mind and body, whilst slowly becoming less deluded and honing my common sense in the process…that in itself demands my full attention.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated
Questions I posed to myself earlier in the week:
If I knew I was going to die in 6 months time, what changes would I make in my life in the time I had left?
My answer is irrelevant, my question now is…why wait.