One of the benefits of growing older -- I'm 65 -- is that you acquire some Zennish enlightenment without having to meditate on hard cushions, figure out koans, or do any other of the Official Zen stuff.
Just seeing people you know about your age or younger die naturally leads to a realization that, as I said in another blog post on this subject three and a half years ago, This is it.
We live. And eventually we die.
What I knew on the dog walk, and still know, is that this moment, whatever it consists of, never will come again.
Standing on the road, leash in hand, I knew that so deeply I was almost afraid to embrace the realization wholeheartedly, because it seemed that if I ever fully fathomed the depths of what I can only call IT, I'd run the risk of never coming to the surface of my everyday life again.
Which could be a good thing. OK, it probably would be a good thing. I just didn't feel like a dog walk was the right time to dive deeper into IT -- the experience that arguably underlies all other experiences.
Namely, the existential in-your-gut realization of life's finitude, ephemeralness, and above all, preciousness.
Never again will I experience what I am right now. This moment will never come again. (A cliche, but cliches can be absolutely true.)
Today I had a similar, yet different, feeling.
It was more a realization that, no matter what I am doing, one day there will be a last time that I do it. Problem is (and maybe this isn't a problem, but a good thing) likely I won't know which is the last time.
I was in an upstairs workout room at our athletic club. I go up there to do some Yoga and Tai Chi. Per usual, nobody but me was using the room. It's got a nice wood floor; floor to ceiling windows; a view of the south Salem hills covered with fir trees.
Usually I only do one Tai Chi form, Liuhebafa, as it was taught to me by my instructor, who was taught it by his Chinese instructor, who was taught it... and so it goes.
It's also called "water boxing." The form is long. Super long, compared to other Tai Chi forms, including even the Yang Long Form. It took me several years to learn it all. Now I'm hooked on it. Not saying I do it correctly or well, but I've got the basic moves down.
This afternoon I was looking at the window, about to begin the form, when a thought popped into my mind. "What if I knew this was the last time I'd ever do the form before I died? How would I feel doing it? How carefully and attentively would I perform the moves, knowing this is the last time I'd do them?"
It was more than a thought, of course. More like a whole body, whole mind Wow! sensation. It felt real because I knew this was absolutely true: there will come a time when I do Liuhebafa for the last time.
And this could be it.
Unlikely. But then, every time I do the form it will seem unlikely that this is the last time. Even if I'm gravely ill, barely able to move, my optimistic mind probably will think, "Tomorrow is another day."
One day I'll be wrong. There won't be another day. For me.
Today was one of my most enjoyable Liuhebafa playing of the form. (Tai Chi folks often speak of "playing" a form; fits with the light-hearted, unserious, flow-with-it Tai Chi philosophy.) It felt different, because I felt different -- having begun with that This could be the last time thought.
Uh, oh. I'm getting a junior year in high school flashback.