As the idea for this blog began to take form in my head, I had a hard time deciding on it's title. I knew that I wanted to discuss a few different things here -- mainly the loss of my son, Julien Honor, but I also wanted to explore how our broken places let the light in and introduce us to a larger view of reality.
Since Julien's birth, I've been taken back by this notion that -- for all of us... not just my boy -- birth and death are really just one thing, just one continuum...
When one of my grandmothers died several years ago (the one with whom I'd had the most intimate relationship), I had the honor of being at her side. As her last breath left her body, a great peace swept through me. I wasn't sure what to make of it at the time but I felt pretty certain that it was only her body that had died. When my father passed away last year, I felt his whole being expand beyond the confines of his broken body, fill the room, and climb into my heart.
Then, when we lost our boy during labor this year, it was as if we didn't lose him at all. Throughout my pregnancy I'd had this sense of him filling not only my womb and my heart but also the entire sky. It was because of this sense of him being everywhere and infinite -- spacious and vast like the open sky -- that we chose his name (the root syllable "Ju" derives from the proto-Indo-European root diu, meaning “bright” or "to shine," referring to the light of the daytime sky). Little did we know that he would remain at home in this infinite nature rather than spend a lifetime incarnate with us.
I don't think we can be taught to see death and birth as a continuum. Like so many other things, it's something we have to experience for ourselves. Losing these loved ones has shown me that we are so much larger than solid bodies and limited folds of skin. It's shown me that seeing ourselves as separate, solid individuals really is a root of our suffering. If we could just step back for a moment we might just see a different reality.
For me, meditation has also helped reveal this larger perspective. By sitting with myself year after year I'm beginning to break through my crusty notion of a separate, solid self and discover the spaciousness of my own true nature. Through my grief, I'm seeing that there is a subtle beauty in being broken, in not trying to recreate myself right away, in not looking for the opportunity in the crisis but rather just becoming okay with the brokenness, with the not-knowing who I am or where I am going.
It's this NOT having a strong sense of self, this being broken that gives us a glimpse of the nature of reality, I think. In being broken we can see that we are ever-fluctuating pieces -- and that trying to hold on to them and identify with them as a solid self creates a myriad of problems. When we go to pieces, we create space in the mind...we make room for an inner spaciousness so that all things can come and go without us getting caught in reaction or resistance.
So what are the "Two Simple Happenings?" First, they are the birth and death of my son which happened simultaneously. Beyond this, they are all of creation and our eventual destruction, they are coming and going, joy and pain, poison and medicine, suffering and the end of suffering. They are all of the pairs of opposites that limit our perception and trick us into believing that we are solid, separate selves cut-off from one another, alone, stuck, and limited.
This is what I want to explore here in this blog --- the possibility that we are not at all alone and separate but rather interconnected and interdependent, arising together as one luminous super-organism called the universe, that these perceived dualities are only an illusion, and that the universality of our suffering is the very basis for our kinship -- the place where we can discover our connection with humanity. Looking deeply, I'm discovering that the "Two Simple Happenings" are not two happenings at all. Standing here in the shadows of my grief I can see that they are just one thing.