There never is any preparation for the fact of death. When the shock of it affects our loved ones, family, friends, friends of friends or acquaintances, or those with whose names and influences we have grown up, death immediately shakes us to our very molecules.
In a strange way, because death is so extreme, so absolute, death can be trusted. This is a certainty to be grateful for.
Death never hides. It never pretends or is ambiguous. It is subject to no interpretation or comprehension other than by reference to itself alone.
That is what sets the fact of death apart from regular human business. There are no arguments, no halfway compromises. There is nothing else to do but to meet the fact of death with compassion and acceptance.
The only preparation we can offer to ourselves is to explore our innate compassion and to cultivate the humility of Acceptance.
Long years of making a friend of Acceptance may lessen the chaos of the shock when death visits. We can bring to our awareness over time what our natural compassionate impulses mean to us, and we can examine with care and attentiveness the source of compassion.
It may seem of practical help to reflect on how the origins of compassion derive both their beginning and ending in death. There is a continuous cyclic flow of energy conservation, whose non-competitive, symbiotic motive forces span the axes of death and living compassion.
Respect is due in equal measure to death’s inevitability and to our ability to deepen our acceptance of death with compassion
What do I have to do to raise my happiness and attract more of it in my life?
I need do nothing new. I need to study nothing new.
When love is the lead emotion and passion has taken the steering wheel, words come into my mind the way sunshine pours down after grey rainclouds have blown away.
When in love, love and the ideas and words for love saturate my mind.
Words! The same words that we all hear in the lyrics of every single love song, classical or popular.
I don’t need to take poetry classes to find the words of love songs and love letters. The words of love they find me. My head is already full of love lyrics the way a greening meadow in March is full of jumping lambs.
What amazingly small amounts of effort does it take to bring to mind the places, events, sounds, sights, foods, scents, and the images of people who made me smile and gave me delight!
My time when goodness animates me is my most precious time.
Good times that fill up my attention, whether fleeting half-moments or long term joys, are as critically valuable to me as the droplets of nectar brought back by the honey-bee are crucial to the survival of the hive.
Every moment of pleasantness, contentment, delight or even ecstacy with which I consciously fully flood my mind and heart can become a permanent star in my mental heaven.
I know I have a mind full of Fixed Stars which will be there to guide me whenever I need them to fill my darker moments with light!
What a wealth of strength and support I can access – right there inside of me for the asking – when I go to the carefully stacked shelves in my storehouse of positive thoughts and recollections.
If I practice surrendering deep into my many tiny moments of everyday humdrum bliss, pretty soon it becomes entirely unnecessary to spend my time entertaining thoughts that are boring, miserable, painful, frustrating, distressing, ugly, fearful, or hate-filled.
When I prefer to shun bitter tastes, sights that sicken, random aggression, or when I step back from the edge of a drop, I am not alone, I am sharing my humanity with my self-preservation. But I go a step further. I extend natural self-protection, and boldly I reach deep into the heart of love.
The redirection of my full attention to anything at all that is positive is not just the simplest of methods to help me lead a life of grateful content. The practise of intense appreciation of the details of pleasure brings a steady acceleration of goodness into my daily reality.
Appreciation leads my hand to gratitude. And that impulse, considerately put into practice, leads to the equal balanced reaction – service.
I find myself rehearsing and repeating the words which describe thoughts of positive things.
I catch myself speaking with passion to my friends, and I choose all of the areas of meaning reserved for a lover, except for those specific key words.
After all, it is supremely logical to want the best for the other person, and if love is at the root of my inspiration of the moment, my reason for engaging must be to show how love distills away all contradiction and quells the fears that inflame pain.
I so enjoy letting my mind pick out with deliberate care vocabulary from the Lexicon of Positive and the Encyclopaedia of Love.
It is perfectly normal to smile under these influences. As my Mother used to tell me, to help me counter my adolescent tendency to dwell on my morose thoughts with a glum face, “Smile and the world smiles with you”.
“In order to begin the journey, first it is necessary to arrive”
I wrote the poem ‘Journey’, just as my heart was beginning to open in 2013.
The lifelong search for meaning was both beginning and ending.
I have been knocking at an open door. I have been straining to hear echoes from my voice. I have woken up to drag my feet through the unexplained, inexplicable days with my eyes closed.
What is the one common factor in the last three sentences which acts like a short leash on a pet dog, preventing it from racing off into a new discovery?
When an animal like a dog or a bird spots an object of interest, it will go to it. It takes no time out for risk assessment. It consults no preflight checklist, it undertakes no critical path analysis of its intention, and it generally measures its actions against its peer group behaviour not at all.
When “I”, Peter the Pilley, lean into “I” the animal, I have no use for the old and much-thumbed ‘Wiki of What-Ifs’. I can leave it to sit on the shelf in the library of my mind.
The naked flame has no label. The naked flame hurts. That’s all there is to it from my perspective.
Picture a tree in a woodland setting. Here is the label neatly printed, affixed to the trunk. It confirms beyond all doubt this entity’s identity, because it is written: TREE.
Turn away and look elsewhere. Millions of labels are attached to millions of objects, most with subtext and supplementary information.
The naked flame needs its label. Either I acquire it by burning myself, or it is given to me by admonition.
The World of Labels is acquired from our human beginnings. It is a useful and often necessary complement to my navigation. It can disappear entirely under the influence of a hallucinogen. It will reappear later to be where I am, only to hang around one step in front of me – a persistent and ingratiating self-appointed guide – ready with its irrefutables… “this is this” and “that is that”.
Desperation, frustration and plain old misery can arise if the world of labels is accepted unquestioned. Labels can cage the heart and trap the soul. I am talking about barriers like “What if” and “I can’t” and again “not now, some other time”.
It is in the years since the Year of my Life, 2013, that I have seen through the heaviness of damp woollen shrouds, all richly hung with labels. Gradually, as I see mirrored everywhere the living-beingness of things, I have experienced over and over the thrill of recognition.
I stop. I see here the waving antennæ of a single lacewing at rest. What is it? What is it sensing? What does it search for, sifting the sightless drifts of air for what signal? I ask Lacewing.
I stop at a stone on the footpath. It is different, maybe in shape or colour. I ask Stone where did you acquire your shape? What processes and over how long originated your stoniness?
There is a type of excitement aroused by pausing to enquire In this simple way, where no parent, schoolteacher, or employer, has shown, instructed or directed before.
There is an urgency in the attraction of this feeling. It is related to, but not exclusive of, the search for a meaning.
I wanted to repeat the thrill of seeing both myself and the lacewing’s mind disappear under the cross-examination of reading the Mirror of Thisness.
Gradually, I made my choice. To ask, to see if I can see the unseen in everything I walk past. The more I stop to examine the macrocosm in the microcosm of my immediate surroundings, the more I began to melt away as “I” observer.
The intensity of what is mirrored to me from the life-energies which surround me everywhere, of which in fact I am composed, is perfectly able (if I allow it) to blow me away.
Blown away like the seeds on a dandelion. Like the mist over a morning pond. Like drinking the most intoxicating liqueur ever brewed by the ancients of days, millenia past!
I went for a walk in Royden’s Wood, near Brockenhurst one spring not long ago. The months of build-up of house moving stresses demanded release in some forest bathing.
I started going on methodical, mostly solo, backpack rambles in 1978. I must have covered many thousands of miles, almost all in the south of England.
This woodland walk felt like it was my very first. The woods and the green scenery were not specially different. I was. The intensity of pleasure at finding myself at last alone among so many mature trees, on a windless Spring day was so surprising that my identity as a social creature had shrunk away. I had become little more than a sensitive receiver and I was filled up with awe and joy.
As I walked, very slowly indeed, “I” experienced the magic of Not Being Here in all its wonder and beauty.
It can take time, this discipline of enquiry into Thisness. There are many who need little, even no, preparation, and who “get it”. For me, it has been decades of stumbling, falling, being rescued, loving, ferociously hating, self-sabotage, sleep-walking instead of opening the eyes of my eyes.
My heart is an opening heart. It is no different to your heart. No different to the heart of a stone on the footpath!
Only connect! In an inevitable plurality of beings, I allow myself to melt into Beingness. As often as possible, melt away the walls of the mind. Let the sighing relief of simply being alive fully take over from the exacting exigencies of imposed imperatives.
The entirety of the potential of the universe is yours, mine, and it only asks to be asked for!
Samuel Johnson’s dictum, When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life, occurs to me.
I think I can’t conceive nowadays of a moment not enhanced by some sort of learning curve, all the way through life to the end.
So what characterises a person who is constantly expecting to learn new things on the road, and indeed is more often than not taken by surprise at the stuff there is to learn on the way?
It has to be a serenely untroubled and always available openness. It must be a lack of externally conditioned, self-obstructing barriers to a cat-like curiosity.
Have you noticed that when they both ramp up their attention, cats and artists have a thing in common: they narrow their eyes.
I am no particular fan of pets. The last animal I would compare myself to is a cat. It is a feline/feral immediacy of sensory input, unfiltered by intellect, which is largely responsible for bringing me, my heart and my sacred spaces into contact with the EveryNow. And I have the capacity to hurl my awareness in there pretty much on demand.
Such is the sweeping nature of the changes that I have been overtaken by these last few years, since 2013, the Year of my Life.
By self-discipline, by making continual self-conscious choices over a period of years, the most precious thing I seem have acquired is a lack?
I lack the overlay/inlay of concept, of internally verbalised labels at the point at which my senses interface with objects in the world.
I have been regularly making choices – namely choosing in the first instant to tune in to the Thisness of things. My motivation to exercise this intensity of unblinkered enquiry has become habitual through a self-reinforcing positive feedback.
If I strive to melt Peter the Pilley away in order to let the fly, the flower, the star, the shining soul-light of my friend assume the entire arena of my awareness, then what?
What happens, with no reasoning, no intervening rationalisation obscuring the way, is that I am infused, like tea in boiling water, with love.
The essential truth/nature/living-beingness of everything is love. Oh, and peace-inperpetual-motion as well, but more of that another time.