Meditative Nurture for the Heart
Here’s a bit of possible meditative nurture for the heart, which, as we learn so slowly, must break and break and break (could be the broken heart of a one year old when Mom takes five minutes to respond to the child’s cry of hunger or loneliness) before the limitless love for self and others hidden deep with every heart can pour freely forth.
I don’t know if I don’t want to die,
I don’t know if I do,
How swell to know I do not know,
and go on loving you.
Every morning for many years I have practiced visualizing my own death, always hoping to die in a way that would be a gift to other people. I was inspired by the words spoken to my son Michael by Kim, my wife’s half-sister, in her 80’s, when she chose to have no medical intervention, and to die at home. He was about twenty, living with Dearing, his wife-to-be (they now have a 17 year-old daughter and a nine year old daughter, both of them strong and delightful). Michael lay his head on Kim’s lap and wept, and she tenderly stroked his head, and when he lifted up his eyes to her, she said sweetly, “Michael, I love your beard, it is just right for your face, but if Dearing asks you to shave it off, you will won’t you.” She paused, then went on, “Give Dearing a kiss for me. You will know how to give it, and she will know how to receive it.”
When I visualize my own death, as part of my morning meditation practices, I see myself smiling the fake yoga smile that inevitably, in my experience, jumps my whole body into a genuine, liberating joy. I then see and hear myself dancing inside as I die, and laughing and singing, and I may or may not laugh and sing– simultaneously– out loud. (I began laughing artificially and regularly, as a meditation, when my beloved brother-in-law/play collaborator McCrea Imbrie made me promise to laugh every morning by the clock for five minutes, because I was struggling with an unusually persistent depression)
After laughing, I then say “Hello!” to the Love that is my God, and say whatever else arises to say that is self-less. The buddha made it clear that when we speak and act with a self-less thought, joy follows us, as a shadow that never leaves. Of course, joy being a shadow, we have to practice looking behind us to see and feel it.
After speaking to Love, I visualize kissing the feet of whatever persons come into my consciousness, usually my wife Lee first, then my son Michael and his wife Dearing, I kiss their feet with gratitude that we are one in the Oneness, I kiss the top of their heads with love, I lay my palms on their heads and bless them, and I plant a tender healing kiss on their foreheads.
My next enjoyment is to meditate, paying attention to the root of my nose, the so-called third eye, and reciting my mantra, Radhaswami Thank You God, which combines the mantra I learned from Thakur, a Hindu existentialist, via his disciple Ray Hauserman, combined with the sacred phrase my adored sister-in-law Dawn had been saying since she was eight or ten until she died in her eighties.
Following the third eye meditation, I meditate by focusing on my outbreath, as I was persuaded to do by my son Michael, who had been ordained as a buddhist monk, but now considers himself no longer a monk, but a zen practitioner.
After that meditation, I meditate by repeating any one of a number of sacred writings over and over, such as the St. Francis prayer or the Shantideva poem that includes “it is the treasure that lifts us above poverty into the wealth of giving to life…the butter made from the milk of kindness by churning it with the dharma…it is a feast of joy to which all are invited.”
My final meditation practise is ‘choiceless awareness of body, mind and world’, taught by Krishnamurti– simply watching as a fascinated and often delighted spectator, with panoramic awareness, the most prominent perceptions that appear and disappear in my consciousness.
To top it all off, I breathe in love and breathe out love, I speak silent aspirations for the happiness of all beings, I think of all the ordinary and amazing teachers who loved me, and any of their teachings that may come to mind, such as this by Bob Imbrie: “Make each day a work of art, make a work of art of time… Total acceptance of reality makes life a beautiful fairy-tale…Cherish the wild inside you, let the grass grow through you.” And other powerhouse words of Jesus, Thakur, the Baal Shem Tov.
If you wonder where I find the time for all these practices, you are in good company, because I also am amazed that somehow I manage to wander among them every day, often just for a minute or two, but because the universe (and every particle of my being) is probably a hologram, every tiny splinter contains the Oneness of the Without End.