The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “mindfulness”

Each Grain of the Sand







My existence was not an easy one.  I, with my people,  lived in some of the harshest conditions on Earth,  with extremes of temperature and few natural resources. We were raised to battle others over what little there was. We fought fiercely out of necessity. We roamed the desert, living a way of life that our people had done for millennia,  herding,  trading,  traveling.

But despite the difficulties and uncertainty of such a life,  I remained  happy and peaceful.  My family thought I was simple in the head, and I suppose I was, but simple is not stupid.  Without bothering to contradict them,  I simply considered it a more intelligent way to live.

I reveled in every moment, every sensation. At prayer time,  I rolled out my rug to the east like the others, but unlike them, I did not say my prayers,  not aloud and not silently to myself. I did not occupy my mind with God, but rather cleared it of everything, making myself an empty vessel, allowing myself to be filled.

I smelled the air, infused with the scent of cooking fires and of the animals and of the other men,  sometimes of date palms and fresh water.  I felt the warmth of the rising sun or the heat of noon or chill of the wind after the dusk.  I noticed the shadows as they changed throughout the day and the colors of our shelters against the orange sand. I did not worry that God would punish me because I did not say the proscribed prayers.  I felt my own method was worship enough.

I loved the low humming of the sand when the wind passed over the dunes.  I was comforted by the familiar bellowing of the camels.  I listened for the skittering, hissing noise of the beetles in the quiet of the night.  I felt safe hearing the muffled conversations of women inside their tents.

Not every sensation was pleasant.  There was heat and thirst,  naturally,  but there was pain of an injury or insect bite.  There was illness and eventually the infirmities of age.  There was the terrifying, swirling, howling blackness of the sand storm.

There were many occasions to be afraid — of nature and of men — but I rarely felt fear.  I was prepared to accept whatever might be.  If it was my time to die, I was prepared for that as well.  I was at peace with myself and my maker.



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The Pleasure in the Pain



crying eye


Life became so much easier once I learned to feel the pleasure in the pain. I do not speak of the passion of physical pain, which is not pain at all; I speak, rather, of emotional pain.

This is not to say I sought it out, but life is full enough of pain that there is no avoiding it. My life became easier when I no longer numbed myself to the inevitable. I stopped running from it wherever it found me. After time, I didn’t even bother to step out of its way.

I stopped fearing it. What a release to enjoy the beauty in sorrow! To savor the taste of my own tears. To climb down deeper into understanding on the rope of my pain.

Great emotion – both joy and pain – is opening. The heart is rent wide, laid bare without defense. No walls. No ego.   Only in this state — without ego — is it possible to connect to the universe.

I learned not to waste that state of grace.


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A Collection of Moments



Dungeness River, Sequim, WA - Magdalena Bassett


I can remember the screeching of the sea birds as they descended on the harbor to feed on the offal of the fishermen’s catch. At the time, I thought of them as a nuisance. But I remember them now with affection. They were so purely alive, exploding in a storm of biological imperative.

There are a lot of things I remember now that I didn’t take the time to notice then: The way the air on the skin changes from season to season – a floral caress in the spring; in winter. A slap on the cheek from an angry lover. The way a certain scent, not smelled since childhood, catapults you back to the nursery.  The quiet breathing of a lover, in the place beside, and the warmth left behind when they are gone.

Plodding along, one foot in front of the other, I never took my eyes from my path; I never noticed the small miracles lining the way.

Only later, perhaps too late, does it become clear: there is no prize or grand finale. What you have in the end is only the joy you’ve collected along the way.


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Photo by my pal, the very talented Magdalena Bassett. Image: The Dungeness River on a rainy day in Sequim, WA

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