There is a Persian proverb in a book called
The Last Adventure of Life: Every man goes down to his death, bearing in
his hands only that which he has given away.
When I read this a year ago it gave me pause. I sat with that proverb for days and days, contemplating it like a koan, chewing on it, working it over in my mind, taking it to deeper and deeper levels.
I started asking myself on a regular basis: What am I holding on to today? Because whatever it is, it will be left behind when I die—unexpressed and unoffered. Gone. Finito. Buried with my corpse. That’s the truth of it. So, why do I hold back? Is it a fear of being too transparent, vulnerable, embarrassed, depleted? Is it pride? Am I unconscious? Why do I hesitate to offer that which could be helpful to another? Is it simply an old, tired habit?
I am not talking about unloading all of my personal possessions, though living less encumbered recently has been freeing and sweet. It’s more subtle than that. When I am with people do I give them my full attention? When a compliment comes into my mind, do I offer it? Do I engage life authentically? Do I express my love when it arises? Do I rejoice in the fortunate circumstances of others? When I pass from this life, will I regret that there was much more I could have given that I did not?
A sublime Buddhist teacher Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche says that generosity is a mind that offers freely. A mind that is not contracted around self-interest, but one that is open and spontaneously responsive. So beautiful. Sounds simple really, but I do not find this easy to do. I am inconsistent, swayed by my capricious whims.
I had an engaging conversation with a dear friend last night over a bottle of wine. We acknowledged that my writing is more personal these days. This is true. I find I have things to say, and if left unsaid, they will go down with me. Where’s the benefit in that?
My son-in-law said to me recently, “You are divesting.” I think he meant that in a positive sense. I am letting go. More and more, I cling to less and less. It’s like preparing for dying, and as a consequence, for being fully alive. My writing is becoming an offering, a part of my practice. If you are following this blog, we are taking this journey together. I welcome your reflections.