Minister’s Musings Among the Mountains – The Nine Contemplations

Greetings, good people of Westside UU and beyond

I was in Tampa, Florida last week for a UUMA conference held every three years. Generally, it was great. The clergy worship services were energetic and entirely not what I am used to. They made my stout New Englander heart a bit less armored, but they were very new to me. They were very powerful. They (along with our normal services) are part of the future. The worship presenters knew this and talked about how important our traditional and known expectations services were as well.

In other news, people complained how cold it was at 61 degrees (these were Florida folks, by the way).

We UU clergy also discovered on the way home that we had brought little hungry bugs with us. I found this out on Sunday when I started coughing at church. On Tuesday I had to go to church for a staff meeting. Shannon, Cynthia, and Judi from the board all took one look at me said with waving hands told me to come home. I listened to them and have been in bed for nearly the last day. I didn’t even watch the State of the Union address because I was already having nightmares.

When I was on the flight to Tampa I read a book on illness and aging. Some of you know that I am doing a class (full, now) called Making Friends with Aging and Death. Granted, it isn’t a cheery topic but it is a real one. I don’t often get sick but when I do I am reminded of my mortality.

In the book there was a Buddhist meditation/prayer called the Nine Contemplations. They were written by a 11th Century Buddhist teacher named Atisha. We are supposed to meditate and reflect on each one for a week or a day. I share these with you now as I am doing these types of practice myself. We become familiar with the reality of life and death. I hope this will be useful for some of us as a comforting and real way to examine illness, aging and death.

The 9 Contemplations of Atisha

The First Contemplation
Death is inevitable, no one is exempt.
Holding this thought in mind, I abide in the breath.

The Second Contemplation
Our life span is decreasing continuously, every breath brings us
closer to death.
Holding this thought in mind, I delve deeply into its truth.

The Third Contemplation
Death will indeed come, whether or not we are prepared.
Holding this thought in mind, I enter into a real sense of practice.
(or, “I enter more fully into the body of life.”)

The Fourth Contemplation
Human life expectancy is uncertain, death can come at any time.
Holding this thought in mind, I listen with utmost care to every sound.

The Fifth Contemplation
There are many causes of death – habits, desires, accidents can be precipitants.
Holding this thought in mind, I consider the myriad possibilities.

The Sixth Contemplation
The human body is fragile and vulnerable, our life hangs by a breath.
Holding this thought in mind, I attend to each inhalation and exhalation.

The Seventh Contemplation
At the time of death, our material resources are of no use to us.
Holding this thought in mind, I invest wholeheartedly in the practice.

The Eighth Contemplation
Our loved ones cannot keep us from death, there is no de
laying its advent.
Holding this thought in mind, I exercise non-grasping and clinging.

The Ninth Contemplation
Our body cannot help us at the time of death, it too will be lost at that moment.
Holding this thought in mind, I strengthen my capacity for release.

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