A Note to Readers – It might help to know that this post is an expansion of my thoughts from an article posted 5/13/22 on Chip Conley’s wonderful website, The Modern Elder Academy in his Wisdom Well blog. If you have come from that post or have arrived here by intention or accident, “Welcome!” You will find the additional content in bold below.
This is a Good Day to Die
The riverbanks are high from yesterday’s Tsunami, created by an underground volcano off the island of Tonga. NASA said the resulting blast was hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The only visible change is a higher surf with bigger swells and rising sea water bringing the river closer and closer to the shoulder of this two-lane twisting county road. The deciduous trees have lost their leaves, their January skeletons stand like sentries dotting the roadside.
This essay was written the 16th of January 2022 and four months later I can still see the surface of the extremely calm water driving up the Siletz River Highway.
It is Sunday morning, 10:45 am. I’m alone in the car, listening to an NPR interview about the writer, Joan Didion, who recently passed away. I am extremely content. There is no one on the road. The air and river are both completely still. The river is mirror-like reflecting wispy clouds in the periwinkle sky; a lavender hue hangs close to the water. The sun can’t be seen directly however; it is full reminding me the day is still young. The morning is deliriously calm.
Deep states of calmness can be so memorable, at an emotional and physical level. I can use the emotional memory of this moment to calm me in future times of stress. When can you remember feeling a deep state of calmness? And how can use that moment in the future?
And in this moment, a thought flashes through my consciousness. Rocky, this is a good day to die. My mind examines this thought. Why is this a good day to die?
It isn’t often I remember having a ‘new thought.’ This was a moment where I indeed felt this was a brand new concept for me.
As America begins a third year of Covid with continued political upheaval, I think about my closest relationships as they scan across the tabula rasa of my mind. My husband, Richard is home resting from a vertigo episode. Vertigo stops him in his tracks. He awakens with a true appreciation for life when once again, all is right with the world. My siblings and their partners seem healthy and prosperous and our many adopted nieces and nephews are engaged, living full lives. Our dependent, Chandrasekhar in Mysore, is finding his way and pursuing more education. Members of our DCI Yoga cohort are mindful, purposeful and committed to their practice.
It is important to realize contentment came with a sense that all of my closest relationships were on purpose and evolving. Is there also a sense of letting go?
I realize I am tether-free of anyone in my meaningful inner circle. My relationships feel complete. I recognize in this moment I am free of attachments. From where does this sense of completeness emerge? The car tracks beautifully through each curve, forty miles an hour is a perfect speed to feel the road and remain part of the tranquil scene. I feel one with the road, the river and the dormant landscape all around me.
When have you experienced a moment of completeness? Or when do you feel you are enough? There may not be a perfect time to let go? Can you let go today?
This is my six-hundred and seventy-second day of contiguous yoga. At the end of an āsana sequence, we practice śavasana / corpse pose, to be more fully alive. How deep is this serenity of completeness living inside me? Will I experience this beautiful moment again? How do I stay connected to this calm? It is a sense of separateness and at the same time, feeling connected to everyone and everything around me. There is no other.
This is now my seven hundred and eightieth day of contiguous yoga and mindfulness. With another one hundred plus days of practice since I wrote the essay I can say my spiritual muscle has only deepened. I more quickly access a deeper and soulful place inside of me. I can’t imagine ever going back to my life without a dedicated and serious daily practice.
The 13th century Japanese, Buddhist priest, Dōgen Zenji (1200-1253) writes, “If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”
I realize driving up the river at forty miles per hour on a crisp and clear January morning that Truth with a capital “T” is right in front of me. Truth can come in the most ordinary moments. I know this “new thought” will come again and again as my dominant thoughts tend to repeat over and over. How will I respond the next time I imagine…this is a good day to die?
As expected, this ‘new thought’ for me has become a repeated thought. I added it to my daily We Croak review, an app I highly. When I live an exceptional day, I check this prompt as being a good day to die.
Truth is right where we are. It is not outside of us. It may be in the future. It may have been in the past…and wow when I know it in the now, Dōgen Zenji’s truth prevails.
An Invitation to Self-exploration
Questions to ponder…
When can I remember feeling/experiencing a deep state of calmness or moment of completeness?
In what other ways do I experience the deep serenity of completeness living inside me?
When have I recognized, felt, or embodied a sense of being enough?
Understanding there may never be the “perfect” time to let go… Could I let go today? Is this a good day to die?
If so, what words can I put around the completeness I feel?
If not, where in my body do I feel resistance to letting go and what insights might I find in this awareness?
Ready for other topics of self-exploration?
You may find this post of interest:
I’m Still Learning – Expanded Thoughts – It includes my expanded thoughts from an article originally posted on Chip Conley’s Wisdom Well; the blog for The Modern Elder Academy.
If you wish to further a discussion about your own process of aging, you are welcome to be in touch: Contact Page
A special and very heart-felt note of appreciation to Chip Conley of The Modern Elder Academy for inviting me to share an excerpt of this post on his Wisdom Well blog. Spending much of his time at MEA retreat center in Todo Santos, Mexico, Chip is an entrepreneur and advocate for the value of wisdom that comes with age. He is an American hotelier, foundation builder, grant maker, author and speaker, who is also on the board of Burning Man.
Rocky Blumhagen is a Stanford University DCI (Distinguished Careers Institute) Fellow/partner Class of 2019 and a yoga teacher and mindfulness practitioner. To read more about Rocky – Click Here
Read more of Rocky’s posts on Chip Conely’s Wisdom Well blog.
Siletz Bay Photo Credit – gchapel