Why I Love Our Ancestors And Their Tragic Stories

Because their stories hold such lessons, and because we need to honor them. Their legacy will live on in the lives we are giving to others, the lives we create for ourselves.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was the first time that the thought of death crossed my mind. I thought, my entire life, I’ve been doing some type of spiritual practice or meditative experience; this must be something new and exciting. I remember walking home when I was in my 30s – one minute alone and the next I was with a friend. We got into a conversation. “So, did I just feel a little bit of radiation from the doctor?” She said, “Yes, my goodness!” I was shocked, but not disbelieving. I took a deep breath, and continued talking with enthusiasm about my meditative practice, my meditation practice. This conversation never occurred again that evening. It seems that the conversation with my friend was my first glimpse of mortality. The idea that “We are all just sitting here on the planet” was deeply unsettling for me. In my life I’d just gotten over several divorces, was on a few different medications and was exhausted. I was thinking about everything other than death. If I was just with another of my friends, wouldn’t my entire life have been over? It has been more than 13 years since.

We are all sitting here on the planet. We all have the same thoughts: “There is only me!” – even when we’re together at the office. We talk about how we’re not ready for kids yet or that it’s too expensive to go. We just wish we were at the airport or we’re hungry instead of hungry for something else. “This place just sucks!” or “I’m so tired.” There is some way that death becomes a comfort. It’s why we want to do yoga at the end of our lives. And it’s why the “We are all just sitting here on the planet” comment of my friend was so resonant.

This brings me back to the topic at hand. If death isn’t a comfort, does it give me the energy to get back up from the yoga mat and do something useful?

I was going to write about a Buddhist meditation practice that was actually helpful in dealing with my nausea and headaches. But it would have ended with a long, long post. And so I’ll put it here in a quote of Buddha’s. Just a little background: My sister and I live two doors down from a Buddhist nun (not sure if they have a guru yet, but maybe one will show up soon…) . Last year the Nuns asked my sister and I both to talk to her about our thoughts, opinions and beliefs. We talked about how Buddhism helps us understand the world, and how that helps us understand ourselves. I told her that my beliefs were about how and why we experience our world, the way it appears and the way we interpret the world in our experience. This was the first time I mentioned that death can be a negative thing in Buddhist teachings. I have to say I found her statements about death refreshing. The belief that all of us are just sitting here on the planet was comforting to me. I wanted to be happy in my own way and be OK. I didn’t want to feel like I was “nothing”.

I remember thinking, “Oh thank you!” So I did… and found that it made a huge difference in my life – in everything.