Okay, don't get a grip if you don't want to! You can wait until your life partner leaves you, your career goes down in flames, or your health goes south. But then it might be too late to get a grip; and you might end up going completely bonkers!
Things untoward happen to everyone, eventually. We are not gifted or blessed, or special people; we just think that we are as we use up our luck. It's a psychological hoax. And when something unexpected happens, we look around in disbelief. Why is it that we are surprised? Are we shocked when we look in the mirror and suddenly notice that we have become old? If we are surprised at that, then we haven't been paying much attention.
Getting a grip is like saving for something. We might pass up that new Corvette in order to put some money away, just in case we need food or medicine more than a depreciating sports car someday when we get old! To get a grip psychologically means we anticipate that things are not going to go swimmingly forever. We actually begin to anticipate our own personal death.
That's getting a grip; a grip that when accomplished insulates us from ever losing our minds or our awareness in a crisis. Because in our anticipation of death, we have experienced losing it all and it wasn't that bad. Actually, it was rather liberating!
It is interesting, here in Western civilization, how we tend to ignore death. We consider it to be some kind of morbid preoccupation. Teenagers screech and scream over rotting bodies walking around in horror flicks, and we dress up and cosmetic-size our dead as if they are only sleeping. Curious isn't it? Could it reflect a deep-seated fear of what will happen to all of us very soon; that we will end?
"Don't think about such things!" “Keep yourself busy and you won't worry!"
Sure, ignore the reality of life, which is death, and be totally unprepared when things happen. Good advice, like ignoring chest pains!
By now, most readers are probably getting a little uncomfortable reading this article.
That's okay; then go read something more uplifting! But keep in mind that if you fear death, you will never really live life. Fear will cause you to die a million deaths, instead of only one.
If you can get a grip on death just one time, guess what. All your problems that you fret about constantly seem somehow smaller. Our opinions become less strident, our positions a little more amenable. We view those who are different from us a little more kindly because the one experience that we will all share, the big one, dwarfs all of our petty differences. These things we begin to see.
But if we believe that we will live forever, then of course we become very attached to our opinions and positions because it's as if they are substantial and eternal, as we believe we are. In actuality, our opinions and positions die with us. They actually die every moment, just as we do, but we don't know that yet.
If and when we did know that; that there is no one standing behind our simple bodies and minds, then the pressure would be off. Then we could truly live life to its fullest. Then we could relax into life, and in that relaxation be able to see the needs of others. We might even be able to relax enough to become courageous and give to others, in whatever capacity we can. Then we could understand, for ourselves, the only happiness that humankind can ever know, which is selfless giving.
And know that nothing truly dies.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com