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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Oh Death where is your Sting?

Like a thief in the night death comes to steal our loved ones. It will come for us as well. In the meantime what are we to do with that heaviness of heart? What could we to do with our mortality-oriented-anxiety? May I suggest the Buddha’s sixteen contemplations?

As we breathe in we could silently and mentally recite “How hating…” and as we breathe out we could silently and mentally recite “…quite stressful?”. This is a rhetorical question; so by definition it works best if we do not strive to actively answer it. Rather, let us content ourselves to coordinate it with our inhalation, our exhalation and our relaxation for four to sixteen rounds.

Similar contemplations are: “How craving… quite stressful?”, “How vying… quite stressful?”, and “How clinging… quite stressful?”.

During the next four exercises we could bring the four bases of mindfulness into the path of interdependence that we could better transcend our competitive and jealous tendencies: “How are lots*… dependent?” “How are forms… dependent?” “How is speech**… dependent?” and “How are minds… dependent?”.

*We are merely using “Lot” as a monosyllabic synonym of “circumstance.”

**We are using “speech” as a monosyllabic synonym of our experience of the “interpersonal.”

During our next four exercises we could contemplate big, scary impermanence to better transcend our clinging and prideful tendencies: “How could lots… always change?”, “How could forms… always change?” “How could speech… always change?” and “How could minds… always change?”.

During our final four exercises we could contemplate no-self, NOT to philosophize, NOR rigidly believe. We are going to play with the final four rhetorical questions with the simple intention of becoming a little more comfortable with letting go: “How could lot… not be me?”, “How could form… not be me?”, “How could speech… not be me?”, and “How could mind… not be me?”.

No, a single session of this practice will not cause death to die. But if you play with this every twelve hours for a week, or so, it could really take the edge off of your impermanence-oriented-anxiety.

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