We could look at our life as a whole as a journey from our birth to our death, but we should not stop there; we could take a closer look. What is our experience of life right now? What is our experience of our life moment to moment? When we look into our immediate experience, we realize that not only is our life as a whole bounded by birth and death, but each moment within that journey is also bounded by birth and death. So it is not just at the end of our life that we encounter death; we are confronting death at every moment.
Cultivating an awareness of the immediacy of death is a threat to everything we hold dear. It is a threat to our self-image, to our attempt to make our world solid, to our sense of control, and to our desire to keep death as far from life as possible.
We have this notion of me and my solid life--here I am, "me," in my secure life--and somewhere on the border of that is this threatening thing called "death." There is this "me" that I know and love--and then there's "death," out to get me. Death is out there somewhere, in the distant future, hopefully--more hopefully still, it is way out in the very distant future! We think, "At some point--but not now!--I am going to have to relate to this thing, because I know it's out there, and eventually it's going to catch up with me."
We maintain that frozen approach to life by distracting ourselves from our immediate experience. When we are not just zoning out, we keep ourselves occupied with thoughts of the past and future. We pile up memories--me when I was a child, me 20 years ago, me and all my little thoughts, me and my experiences of this and that. Then we drag all that along with us. Over time, we keep adding more stuff, more and more and more--and we are afraid to let go of any of it. By holding on to those memories, we try to keep what is already past alive.
|It is not just at the end of our life that we encounter death; we are confronting death at every moment.|