For over two decades I have been awake every single night at 3 am or within a few moments of it. I do not know why. For many years I used the time to meditate. Because I had no training for meditation it was more simply being silent and open to whatever the Universe might choose to communicate. Several times extraordinary things happened but most often nothing happened. Now that I have the benefit of almost five years of instruction from a serious meditation teacher - one trained in the Tibetan basics for the Western mind - I often meditate during this time. The only thing I have noticed so far is that my thoughts have settled down a bit. Instead of tumbling and rushing randomly in a frenetic rush of chaos, they now seem to come more quietly and orderly. I am just beginning to have the mental discipline to not automatically go unconsciously down the rabbit hole with every random thought that catches my attention. Not always but sometimes I can avoid being pulled entirely into a train of thought. Tis but a bit of progress.
Sometimes I do not want to meditate or listen in case the Universe speaks to me. I apparently want to worry about the rest of my life and dying. I have been physically limited by bad knees for a long time but in the last five years I have been physically suffering - due to my knees and because I am getting old. Not just older, but old. I have to say, getting old sucks. My hearing is diminishing and my eyesight is deteriorating rapidly due to some sort of cracking process caused by aging and the beginnings of cataracts. The cataracts can eventually be removed but there is no remedy for the other process. My strength wanes. If only I were still physically strong, I would be happy. I can still change a tire, but not always. I need help sometimes. I can still pull down a hay bale but to clean up the barn and remove the old bales would take several days instead of a couple of hour's work. I can load feed bags in and out of my car but it is no longer effortless. I have to work hard at it. It is inevitable that these changes occur but it is scary and dismaying. Sometimes facing these facts and admitting that it is only going to get worse as time goes on makes me claustrophobic in the middle of the night.
Far better people than I have become old, infirm and died, some peacefully and some in the agony of cancer or other horrific disease, or due to a gruesome accident or crime. I believe I have lived before so for that to have happened it means I have also died before. I was with my mother when she took her last breath and a thrilling energy suffused the room. I experienced it as her joy in being released from the cruel physical ravages of late stage emphysema. I knew her thought at that moment was "That wasn't hard at all! What was I so worried about?"
We all know we have to go sooner or later and I have been thinking about the reality of that. Of course, I do not have any idea how or when, but whatever form the conclusion of this life takes, I will have to go along with it whether I am ready or not. When I was a child and first began riding roller coasters, there was always extreme regret as the cars began the gut wrenching, clanking climb up that first hill. My psyche would writhe in despair and regret, and I would silently wail, "Too late to get off now!" I was going for the ride whether I was ready or not. I sometimes think dying might feel like that - including the terrific rush of adrenaline and joy at surviving when the cars arrived back at the beginning.
Still...how much we must give up when we lose this world! Everything - our home, our loved ones, our talents and pleasures, and whatever wisdom we may have garnered in our brief moment on Planet Earth. Of course, we hear from people who have been revived from clinical death. They tell of meeting loved ones who send them back because it is not yet time. Or they report an encounter with a merciful being, or entity that some call God. Some come back after witnessing a marvelously beautiful land. I have not a clue how it will go or where I will be or what I will do when I get there.
I hope it is as Gandalf explains to Pippin:
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that isn't so bad.
Gandalf: No. No, it isn't.