honey on the razor's edge
The nature of everything is illusory and ephemeral, Those with dualistic perception regard suffering as happiness, Like they who lick the honey from a razor’s edge. How pitiful they who cling strongly to concrete reality: Turn your attention within, my heart friends.
Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche from the book Natural Great Perfection: Dzogchen Teachings And Vajra Songs
The past several months I've been reading a book called Hospicing Modernity. I say 'months', because it's not only not an easy book to read, but also because each page is nutrient-rich in ideas – so much so that I notice myself side-stepping and applying whole paragraphs the author wrote with one intention in mind, into other areas of my life. It seems that the longer I leave between each few pages, the more the words take root and new meanings then meander and branch off into their own directions. I guess that is the benchmark for a great book! As 'painful' as the book is to read (as in, the truth of our modern reality can be hard to bear), reading this book is sort of the opposite of pulling a bandaid off. While the looking at truth is difficult, all the same, I don't want to turn away and I want the looking to last. (One of my yoga teachers says often, yogis don't want to look away, they want to see more deeply.)
The concept of 'hospicing' anything has implications - it is an acknowledgement of death, a saying goodbye of something that is no longer; but it is also an underlining of a life lived, of the process of unpicking what once was. And inherent in the word hospicing is compassion...comfort...a knowing there is heartache and yet not running away, but being with it...tending to it as it loses its charge, its life.
For anyone who has said to say goodbye in a 'forever' kind of way, it is normally not so black and white. The door is never firmly shut from one moment to the next, but instead there is a kind of meandering of memories and emotion. It makes sense. Any meaningful relationship comes with moments of joy, and pain; honey and the blade, so to speak.
The past several years we have been in a collective 'hospicing' mentality, with the obvious threads of the pandemic, climate change, and now, seismic shifts in a land called Europe where we thought we understood the man-made boundaries. The boundaries, though, exist only in the mind and on paper. In fact, though, many of us might know how it truly feels to hospice from a more personal standpoint.
It might have been saying goodbye to a loved one due to death, the termination of a job, or retiring from a meaningful career. Even the transition from health to disease can have undertones of saying goodbye to what once was.
At this time of year, springtime in the western hemisphere, many equate this time with new life, new beginnings and births. Though even now, after only a few weeks, the daffodils are wilting, and baby lambs and piglets just born face an uncertain death around the corner; in fact, their lives are rather at the end than towards the beginning.
The point is, we are all in a cycle of change. We desperately cling to information that tell us that 'everything is going to be ok', and 'normalcy' implies that anything ever stays the same. To the conditioned human brain, in fact, normal can mean some form of 'the best of times'; that things are living up to some kind of expectation.
In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Perhaps Mr. Dickens understood the timelessness of his words. Maybe he understood the human predicament of temporal duality, the continuum of wading between states of emergence and deterioration. Perhaps he even understood the Buddhist teaching of "honey on the blade"; that the very things we think bring pleasure in the end cause suffering, and most the time these attachments are in the form of ideas about how we'd like the world to be, while that very world is dying on the vine.
So maybe, at the end of the day the very best we can do is to practice detatchment, to nourish goodness and healing from the inside out, to understand we are a continuum of change.
Workshop April 10th, Yoga on the Farm
10-12:30pm (with a theme of looking more closely at practice and detatchment, or the idea of 'will and yield', also called yin and yang)