Sitting with the Truth

Image by Dean Moriarty on Pixabay

I am subject to illness.
I am subject to old age.
I am subject to death.


I am subject to illness.
I am subject to old age.
I am subject to death.


My beloveds are subject to illness.
My beloveds are subject to old age.
My beloveds are subject to death.


For the last 2 days, I’ve been sitting quietly for 40 minutes to an hour repeating these lines over and over again. I’ve been reminding myself that I, everyone that I love, everyone that I know, and in fact all sentient beings, are going to get sick, get old, and die. There’s not a thing I can really do about it. Maybe it sounds morbid, but it’s actually helping. A lot. It’s loosening the constriction I feel in my chest that’s been caused by clinging to the fantastical delusion that I can actually avoid any of these things. It’s eased my suffering. The Buddha would be pleased.

I am not a Buddhist, not exactly anyway. I did take refuge in the 3 Gems - the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha in 2004, and somewhere my name is on a list of names in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh, but I don’t and haven’t called myself a Buddhist. Still, the teachings and practice of mindfulness, compassion, and equanimity have followed me through my adult life, and I do put my butt on a cushion and watch my breath from time to time. For quite a few years, I was also pretty centered in the truth of my existence too, but somewhere along the line, I got off track. As more loved ones died, and I felt the shattering sense of loss, I also became really afraid, sometimes irrationally so, of sickness, frailty, and death for myself and for anyone that I had a heart connection to. That anxiety was choking sometimes.

Enter COVID-19 - the plague of our century (so far anyway). At the beginning of this year, when I was excitedly boarding a plane that would take me away to Iceland for a self-imposed birthday retreat, it looked like COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus, SARS-CoV-2, was just a bad case of the flu. My mind really liked that idea. The flu? I can handle the flu. My loved ones can handle the flu. It bears noting that I, like many others I know suffered from the neato mind-trip that the flu is a SAFE illness; I’d never been that sick, and I’d never had anyone near me die of the flu (those 80,000 people that died of the flu in the 2017/2018 season? They weren’t real to me), so I wasn’t worried. Even when we started hearing that people were dying and that countries were shutting down as their hospitals were over-run, I was fairly non-plussed. 
It wasn’t happening here. Not in the US. Not in my home, San Antonio.

BIG FLYING LEAP to the Present.

That’s changed.  It IS happening here. There are refrigerator trucks sitting around town to take the overflow of dead bodies from the morgue.  I'm not kidding.

And we’ve learned that COVID-19 is only like my fantasy of the flu for MOST people. Other people get really sick, strangely sick, and some people die - scared, miserable, and alone. And while we know that those folks who get sickest are more likely to be older or have some underlying conditions, the fact is, we don’t really know who’s going to get really sick and who’s going to have a case of the sniffles. As the pandemic has gone on, I’ve noticed that my anxiety about going OUT THERE where the virus is walking around inside 31,316 bipeds here in San Antonio (today, July 20th), and my sense of general doom that this will never end, are reaching a dull roar that is vibrating in my veins most of the time.

I needed relief.

And there was no relief in sight.


Except I had a deeply ingrained memory of a practice that I knew could help me if I sat down to it. Buddhists are realists. And getting to the Real and just sitting in it without judgment is a way out of suffering. The Real is this: it doesn’t matter that our medical system has managed to cure thousands of diseases and that doctors can keep people from dying long past their time. It doesn’t matter that plastic surgeons make tons of money ironing out wrinkles and that people buy oils and creams and powders and super cleanses to keep from getting sick or aging. It doesn’t matter that the fitness industry LIVES for people who want to stay young and strong well into their 70s and 80s. Nope. It doesn’t matter, because the dirty truth, underneath all that fluff is this: we are all going to get sick, get old, and die.

The sooner we really accept that, the better, imho.

But I can’t change everyone else’s thoughts on the matter. I can only face my own. And so for 2 days, I’ve sat on a cushion in my office repeating over and over again the truth. And I plan to sit on that same cushion tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.  Because you know what? The tightness that rises in my chest when I say that I’m going to get sick, get old and die doesn’t stay in my chest.  It moves.  It opens.  It shifts, and it releases.  My suffering eases, and I breathe.  In and Out.  Like the fully alive person that I am.

Currently.  For now.

I HOPE that I don’t catch the virus.  I HOPE that my partner and friends and beloveds don’t catch the virus.  I’m not going to be throwing a COVID party, eating in an undercrowded restaurant, or going to a concert.  I’m buzz cutting my hair, washing my hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask.  I’m also meditating on the Truth.  The morbid, dirty truth of all sentient beings.  And it’s working.  I’m not choking.

You know that saying from John 8:32 in the Bible?  “The truth shall set you free”? 

It’s true.

Sick.  Frail.  Dead.

It’s coming.



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