We've lost touch with the contingency of life

From: A Trackless Path 10
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Now in many respects spiritual practice becomes possible only when societies are able to generate a sufficient surplus so that people have the leisure and time to do so. And the amount of time and opportunities that we have are very much due to the way the society is set up, which generates huge amounts of surplus, does everything it can to rope people into generating more surpluses. And spending actually precious little time utilizing those surpluses, individually or collectively, for the common good. Which is actually extraordinarily ironic when you think about it. But I mean that's how we end up in this kind of rat race or the treadmill.

For me anyway, the most important one of these [reminders] is death and impermanence. Where we are faced with the certainty that we're going to die, which can be more broadly extended to everything we know, every relationship that we have is at some point going to change and it's not going to be there anymore. It may be with our death. It may be before that. And we don't know when any of that is going to happen. And we have our ideas.

And we often fall under the spell of the last couple of centuries, which has allowed us to control our environment and circumstances to a degree which was unthinkable in earlier cultures to the extent now that if anybody dies prematurely it's deemed that something has gone wrong and somebody is to blame. And out come the lawyers and so forth. And we've lost touch, in many respects, with the contingency of life. But this is very important because it doesn't matter how many safeguards we build into things. Things still happen. People get sick, accidents happen.

And out of this comes a very important piece. In traditional Buddhism, one is encouraged again and again to sever attachment to this life. And so everything is projected onto future lives and that's what you're working towards. That's mythical language, one could say, metaphorical language. And over the years I've come to interpret what death and impermanence do for us is to bring us into the awareness that what we experience now is all we will ever know. And then the question is, what are we going to do with it? And all of the other reminders, their energy and the power come from being really, really clear about that one point.

So, over the next day or two one of the things I'd like you to keep in mind is, we have this life, each of us has our own experience;  what do we do with it? This brings into play the old Chinese adage or wish, May you live a life of no regret. Which sounds inconsequential perhaps when you first hear it but as one allows it to rattle around inside it becomes weightier and weightier with meaning and implication.

And it's very important, I think, because many people say, "Okay so you're saying just focus on your own life. That sounds very selfish." And this goes back to a point I touched on in the beginning of our time together. And that is we have to be very clear about what our life is. Our life is everything we experience. Not what we want to experience or what we want to happen, etc., etc. It is everything we experience. And this is where the Mahayana instruction of Regard life as a dream comes into play in a way that a lot of people overlook.

Everything that arises in a dream is something that's arising in your own mind. It's not coming from anywhere else, though one can develop theories about visitations and things like that. But it's all coming from your own experience. And you can't get away from any of it because it's all yours. And that's what I mean when I say our life consists of everything we experience. What happens most of the time is that we direct our energies to those aspects of life which we find interesting or rewarding or fulfilling in some way. And we ignore, push away, or seek to destroy sometimes those aspects of life which make us uncomfortable. But all of it is our life. And what do we do with all of it?