Friday, November 23, 2012

A Slap In the Face

I am of the nature to grow old.
I cannot escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health.
I cannot escape having ill health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way of escaping death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change. There is no way 
to escape being separated from them.

I contemplate the first four of the five remembrances often. Yesterday went deeper . . . 

I spent most of Thanksgiving at the memory care community where I work part of the time. I had expected a joyful day.  I came out instead with heart filled with deep sadness. It helped that I had gotten slapped in the face, literally, by a still relatively young man, a resident with a case of early onset dementia, and lots of rage bottled up inside. Too much going on, too much noise, too many strangers visiting, a complicated family situation . . . he could not take it, and delivered me an unexpected blow, just after I had introduced myself to him. I did not flinch, and walked him to the table where a few relatives were to join him for a short lunch. He obviously needed space. I left him waiting alone. 

Right side of the head still burning, I went on and pretended nothing happened. The truth was, mind had been jarred, and questioned. The angry man had hit me hard with his suffering, and I had to face the truth of the four remembrances delivered right into my flesh, not just as thoughts to be pondered. Habitual, reactive mind revolted, and heart flinched at the very real possibility. Everywhere I turned, lonely souls reminded me, and even the ones with families visiting soon would be left also, back to living the end chapter of their lives in this place. I stopped being the one working there, and felt like almost one of 'them', with only years, and the randomness of fate separating us. 

Life, with its conventional narrative of past, present, and future, is rotten at its core. The story never ends well, and the only way out is through the dropping of the story itself. Each instant, a new moment, a new call to living.


  1. Attracted originally to beauty a couple of months ago that I observed on this blog - glad I signed in and today saw the mention of Upajjhatthana Sutta - the usual stuff somebody else is somebody else's avalokitesvara u happen to be manifesting as mine today

    /\ gratitude - ms pretty
    jayan tashi

  2. dear marguerite, just have read this and want to share it with you and your readers...with metta

    "About twenty years ago, a close friend and I drove to southern Virginia to attend a retreat led by Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. At the closing ceremony, he asked us to choose a partner—I turned to face my friend—and bow to each other. He then instructed us to hug our partner while taking three conscious and full in-breaths and out-breaths. With the first breath, he said to reflect: “I’m going to die”; with the second, “You’re going to die”; and with the third, “And we have just these precious moments.” After slowly releasing our embrace, my friend and I looked at each other through our tears. Thich Nhat Hanh had, in a beautiful way, turned us toward the refuge of truth." Tara Brach

  3. I am sorry you had to experience this.
    That was and often times how I feel with a brain injury, not too far away from that man. Sometimes noise and people tax my brain so far, that I want to hit someone, and yet no one understands why I act that way. It is too much input that we cannot select from, with a bit of emotional frustration.
    Meditation has helped some, only to give me enough sense and a couple of minutes to get away, instead of reacting.