I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Change is inevitable

Rain gear being well used
We are in a period of rain right now, and although this picture was taken last year, it could be us this coming Thursday. After weeks and weeks of sunshine and blue skies, we're in a rainy patch. I really don't mind, and yesterday I got some of my veggie starts into the ground, and they will be very happy to have the moisture. I feel gratitude every day when I get up and once again realize how lucky I am to live here, rain and all.

I've been thinking about the Five Buddhist Remembrances, which I've written about before, not long ago in fact. But they keep coming up to me, reminding me once again about how change is inevitable in life. The first Remembrance:
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
There's something about having passed my seventy-fifth year that reminds me of this fact. If I were to die today, nobody would remark that it was premature. A few years ago, I found this lovely article in the Atlantic, about the author hoping to die at 75. Having just re-read it, I realize I have lived a full life, and I'm grateful for every day of relative health and activity I enjoy. Yesterday I walked five miles and listened to bird calls and took pleasure in the burgeoning spring. The second Remembrance:
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
Aches and pains come with the territory of age, and I have my share of them. Although I do what I can to mitigate them, they will not ever leave me permanently. Sometimes I wonder if this ache or that pain is something worse, something that will eventually kill me, but there is nothing to be done about it, since we all know where we are headed. Sorry if I have to remind you, but that is what remembrances are for. The third Remembrance:
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death. 
This is true of everything and everyone who has ever been born. Now that I am in my twilight years, one thing that has become more important to me is gratitude for the life I have now, with the realization that at any time it might change, just as the weather has changed from sunshine to rain. We need it all. The fourth Remembrance:
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
No way to escape being separated from my beloved? How can that be? Oh, right: he's mortal just like me. Those beautiful, noisy birds in the trees are mortal, as well as the trees themselves. Every living thing is "of the nature to change." There is only one way I know to deal with this pesky fact: enjoy every moment, and be grateful for all that comes my way. And of course, the fifth Remembrance:
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
 After pondering the first four Remembrances, this one gives me comfort. It makes me realize that, although everyone and everything else in our lives is ephemeral, our actions are our only true belongings. That what I choose to do with my life, my day, my blog post, can make a difference. I like the part that reminds me that "my actions are the ground upon which I stand." That is what remembrances are for: to remind us once again about what is real and important.

During my long life, I have had many tragedies and disappointments. I could focus on those if I wished, or I could instead think of the inevitability of these events in everyone's life, and think about the good, beautiful moments I enjoy every single day. I have a body and brain that function moderately well, you might even say magnificently if you consider my age and relative ordinariness. My beloved partner and I share a life that I find fulfilling, my friends enrich my days with their presence, and I live in a modest but functional apartment that keeps me warm and dry. Why wouldn't I choose to focus on all that?

Yesterday I watched this YouTube video that also reminded me that all creatures know about suffering and loss, even if they are puppies watching the Lion King:

I was amazed that this puppy realized what was on the screen and reacted to it, with empathy and an obvious realization of loss. It is a reminder to me that we humans share our lives with wonderful creatures who know all about love.

And with that little gift, I'll move on to the rest of my day. I'll get up and go to the coffee shop to join my friends there, and then to the movies with my friend Judy later on. Plus a bit of time in the garden to see how my plants fared after last night's rain. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all the very best week ever. Be well, dear friends.


Friko said...

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

That rather worries me, does it anyone else? Of course, actions have consequences, what if they are actions you regret? Is there any help with that in buddhism?

Trish MacGregor said...

Love these Sunday posts!

Glenda Beall said...

Having just returned from visiting my original home five hours away and celebrating my brother's 90 birthday, I feel very much as you do in this post. Accepting is a part of our maturity, I think, and although I hate the thought of leaving my loved ones, I accept that I will die and I am not afraid. In some ways, as my sister, June, said, you know when it is time to go on and accepting it is much easier than fighting it when it comes. Like you, DJan, I have lived a good life, but hope there is more, at least as long as I can take care of myself.

Rian said...

"Aches and pains come with the territory..." So true, but the mornings you awake without any wouldn't be as appreciated without the other (does that make sense?) When I awake on those mornings when my bones and my head don't ache, I think, 'wow! nothing hurts!" (not that I have a lot of pain like some people - but my back and head ache almost every morning - may be a bit of sleep apnea) But if one is in their 70+ years, this is not unexpected... and truth be known, perfectly acceptable. What is harder to accept is the fact that if we should die today, the general public would not be surprised - as 70 is a good long life. This wouldn't matter to us (whether they were surprised or not) at the time, but for whatever reason, it matters today.

gigi-hawaii said...

That's a cute video, reminding me that dogs do have feelings and a love for their master that can last beyond the death of their master.

Marie Smith said...

I believe dogs understand love from my experiences with the golden grand-dog.

At a recent Dr’s appointment, he was surprised with the small file I had. I have managed to keep visits to one a year. I keep the Buddhist principles in mind however. I try to enjoy to the maximum these times with few medical issues.

Tabor said...

The whole philosophy seems to be that we have little control over anything and that we must be reflective but not try to argue about the direction we go. But we are the lucky ones, we have food, shelter, and no fear of war outside our doorstep, so perhaps it is easier to be Buddhist when that is the case.

Elephant's Child said...

I love these reflections and try (a constant work in progress) to live by them. Thank you dear DJan.

Linda Reeder said...

I am in my 7th year. I have lived a good, measured, mostly well planned, cautious life. That sounds dull, but for me it is the right thing. Can I plan what comes next? Not so much. but I will try to remember to embrace each day along the way to whatever is next.

Gigi said...

What a great reminder to live life with a grateful heart. Have a great week, DJan.

William Kendall said...

Very thoughtful.

Red said...

Yes, we have to be thankful for right now. To be otherwise is a waste of good life. I see many people who are not happy at all.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am grateful for you and your friendship! I hope you have a wonderful week:)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, It makes me happy that, as you put it, the Five Buddhist Remembrances ... "keep coming up to me, reminding me once again about how change is inevitable in life." I just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to the Five. I hope you will write even more about them. I am trying to focus on them more in my daily life. Thank you, as always, for sharing! Wishing you a happy week ahead! John

Rita said...

The remembrances are perfect to keep in mind every day.
Lovely post, my friend! :)

troutbirder said...

Exactly. Reading this I felt a great sense of familiarity. Your words mirror my own though....and comfort me.:)

Terra said...

The remembrances are wise words. I am about your age and aiming to be a wise woman. Ha! Change is constant.