Life and Death
Everyone writes about Yin/Yang and Qi and goes on and on into the stratosphere about the organs or five elements and so on. I felt the need to write about this subject just like so many other people do but I thought I would write instead about one of the more distasteful subjects of Yin/Yang and Martial Arts & Qigong themselves – Life & Death.
We spend a lot of time training for the purpose of bettering ourselves, our health, our communities and families and talking about white light and energy and happy shiny things. Then we tend to ignore what talking about things like this are really, always, creating their opposites. To label anything beautiful is to create ugliness, to discuss health means to imply disease and to train and pursue longevity is to imply and understanding of death. But the labeling of things like this is rampant and the dark sides of the art and training which are integral to our understanding are overlooked as topics best left unsaid. Well, I call bullshit. Without both sides you have little to nothing for understanding, just hopes and dreams. So why not talk a touch about it?
If we live, we die. The nature of philosophical thought and religion attempt to reconcile this existential crisis – the knowledge that we will die, rot in the earth and disappear. Even the very famous will be forgotten and become dust in time and most of us? By the time our great grandchildren are around we will be at best a name in a family discussion. Can we deal with this? There are many ways to attempt to do so, usually including lying to ourselves in one way or another or trying to simply ignore it throughout our lives. Having watched people die in my lifetime, family members and friends alike, it seems little attention is paid to this throughout life and instead at the final moments fear and anger rule. I mean it is the very last time you get to do anything, especially for the first time, why not prepare yourself to do it well? You studied for tests, prepared for contests and such but the very biggest challenge of all you stay unprepared because it is distasteful? Curious.
Of course I understand the idea that thinking of death is associated with morbidity and so on, but it does not have to be that way. Dealing with the most terrifying of things gently and with compassion and training is preparation not only to die but just as importantly to live, really LIVE. Without the moment of death and its certainty life would be worth so much less. By being finite it becomes beautiful. All things are like this: relationships, marriages, seasons, events and so on. The magic of these things is that they will pass and so we must learn to see the beauty of change and allow it to show us the present moment. Without this we can spend our lives in the past or always in the future, never looking directly at where one is and what one is doing. (Yeah it’s a Master Yoda paraphrased, he knows man…)
How can our martial techniques have real meaning without understanding how beautiful life is and what it would mean to end it for someone else? How can we shy away from that ultimate expression when training? How can we call ourselves “Masters” in our own minds if we are fearful of finding those dark places and methods? How can you teach others if you do not know and understand the consequences of things? Without a meditative practice that looks into these things you cannot truly appreciate your art or indeed your own life, or so it seems to me. It is just my opinion and through my filters but I know the more acquainted I have become with this yin/yang reversal, the yin of the flesh growing weak enough to no longer anchor the yang of the spirit or soul if you prefer, the more skilled and compassionate I have become. I know what it is like to clean and dress the dead, lift and place the corpse in the oven, to watch the life leave someones eyes. Am I okay with the fact this will be my fate? Am I alright to hold that kind of power in my hands over others?
I suppose I will digress for now, I had planned to go on into Qi and using it to describe relationships rather than energy and how even your relationship to time and fear can be observed through qigong training. But I think for now I will leave you with this: never looking into the deepest of your fears is only wasting your time. We all have our demons of fear and anger and so on, don’t try to ignore them, they will exist whether you acknowledge them or not. I say let them out of their cages you keep so tightly locked and if you cannot kill them outright at least learn to put a leash on them. Don’t deny the experiences of being alive to yourself, change is a truth, but sometimes for us to change we need to work for it and push through it and enjoy the small things.
As my old friend used to write in my birthday cards each year “We are all just bones and spit hurtling towards death.” Deal with it, it’s worth the effort.