Breathe in life, breathe out death.
That’s how I began my meditation when approaching the second of Atisha’s nine contemplations on death, your lifespan decreases continuously. On my journey in this practice, I’ve settled on a level of peace about the fact that everyone dies sooner or later. The purpose of this exercise, to me, demonstrates the urgency of vigilance to this matter. Every breath we take, every movement, every word, brings us closer to death.
I sat for the first week with this and I wasn’t really connecting to it in any meaningful way and then I was thinking that every breath brings us closer to death. And that’s when I thought about…babies. I KNOW but just stay with me. I thought about a baby’s first breath and how even that, that very first breath, is the first step toward death. It still sounds icky I know but hear me out. I have two children. I think any parent reading this shares the understanding of the gravity of that first breath, especially if everything didn’t go as hoped.
I was 37 when I had my son. My body has been through a lot and I was high risk for a number of reasons in addition to my age (or advanced decay, as I like to call it). I was afraid every single day of my pregnancy. I wanted this little boy more than anything in the world and I was terrified about that first breath. It felt absurd at times but the fact of the matter is, about 22,000 babies die in the US each year. Ultimately, he wasn’t growing well in my little aged belly and my labor was induced three weeks early. After 24 hours, I had an emergency c-section. My first question when I could speak was “is he breathing?”
My baby is going to die someday. My beautiful adult child is going to die someday. My friends. My family. But also, every breath they take brings them closer to death. So not only do I mean to live each moment of my life in love, gratitude, and service, but every interaction we have with another could be honored as one shared moment, bringing us both closer to death. So maybe relish it? I know we try but like, more. Not only in an individual way, but a collective way, we can be loving, grateful, and of service each moment of another’s life too.