what do you value?

I inherited the wild outdoor cats when I purchased my house in PA.

The cats are wild in the sense that they survive outdoors in the natural world, but also domesticated through being fed regularly by the previous home owners and now by myself.

I’ve adopted them, Mama, Goldie, and their vagabond sister, Clone, who comes and goes at her whim. Mama and Goldie never leave the property. This is their home.

I am always in awe of Goldie’s obvious behavior of caring and loving attention to her aging Mama (Calico cat in photo)

She watches for her, allows her to run first for the food dish, and always cleans her head for her.

Mama has been wheezing since I first met her. I’ve tried homeopathic remedies to help ease any congestion, but trust that she will survive as she is meant to.

My contemplation today was, ‘Will Goldie mourn mama’s death?’

Or do Goldie and mama have access to an understanding of what death really is on a deeper level than humans have access to?

I found the following writing helpful on the contemplative practices around life and death:

“Deepening our understanding of death can radically affect how we live life. Priorities can change and we may not have as much of an investment in an imagined future—perhaps less accumulation of things; perhaps less of an obsession with unattainable security; perhaps less of a preoccupation with “becoming someone,” not so much living for the “future,” because there isn’t one. Is it possible to have fulfillment in this moment?

To learn how to die is also to learn how to live.

Death can serve as a “coach,” encouraging us to live completely in the present, with more confidence and less fear. When we shine the light of death on the yearning for power, fame, and money, they tend to lose of some of their magnetic pull. In the case of vipassana yogis this can mean a dramatic strengthening of the commitment to wholeheartedly engage in practice.

The contemplation of death has helped to take me through the “ups and downs” of practice—it can be an effective antidote to periods of mental dullness. We don’t have forever! Whatever our condition, whatever time and situation we find ourselves in—ideal for practice!

When I get caught in pettiness or resentment towards others, remembering to turn towards thoughts of death, usually restores the mind to balance.

In a dharma talk, Ajahn Maha Boowa told us about a forest monk in Thailand who found himself face to face with a tiger. He was able to manage his fear, and avoid being attacked, by reflecting on how he and the tiger were comrades in birth, old age, sickness and death. His fear was replaced by deep compassion. They observed each other carefully for a few moments, and the tiger walked away.

The message of our impending death can of course have a rather different outcome. An obviously dejected person approached me once after a talk on maranasati. He was disappointed in himself, wanting to drop everything for the dharma—but actually preferring sex, drugs and rock-and-roll!

What do we really value? Why were we born?

In brief, without being mindful of death, whatever Dharma practices you take up will be merely superficial. -Yogi Milarepa

Excerpt from: Shining the Light of Death on Life: Maranasati Meditation (Part I)
Larry Rosenberg, Spring 1994

 

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