Look into the eyes of your beloved and ask deeply, “Who are you, my love, who has come to me and taken my suffering as your suffering, my happiness as your happiness, my life and death as your life and death? Who are you whose self has become my self? Why aren’t you a dewdrop, a butterfly, a bird, a pine tree?” Ask with your whole body and mind. Later, you will have to ask the person who causes you the most suffering the same questions: “Who are you who brings me such pain, who makes me feel so much anger and hatred?” To understand, you have to become one with your beloved, and also one with your so-called enemy. You have to worry about what they worry about, suffer their suffering, appreciate what they appreciate. You and the object of your love cannot be two. They are as much you as you are yourself.
Continue until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Practice until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of the Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your store consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
“Teachings on Love”
“Mindfulness is the energy that allows us to look deeply at our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness and see clearly what our real needs are, so we will not drown in the sea of suffering.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
“Teachings on Love”
Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 80 years old. He died 14 years ago when he was only 66. He has pancreatic cancer in that photo above. He was about 6 months into his ordeal at that point. You can see the ordeal in his thinning frame. I was 42 and alive as all hell in that photo. I’m coming up on 56 now. That’s only 10 years away from my father’s age at death. As my face ages, I see his face in the mirror more frequently. I look for hints of year 66 and the ordeal. I try to see through that to what I might be at 80. I want to make it that far. At least that far.
My youngest child is almost 2. I want to be in a photo with him when he is 42. That would make me 96. I want to be there for that photo and countless photos with all my children between now and then.
I haven’t fully thought this out, but I think my Dad’s passing at a relatively young age is part of what motivates me to run long distances. I want to be alive. I want to run through the woods and conquer all the mountains. I want to do it so I can keep on living. I want to be healthy, strong, and unstoppable.
Do I actually live this way every day? No. More often than not, I’m a lazy gluttonous slob. I’m my own worst enemy. My spirit is willing to live to 96, but my flesh is weak. It’s weak for cakes and pies and candy and potato chips. It’s so weak it can barely carry its own 223 pounds.
I need to snap out of it and lose 30 pounds. There are miles to be run and years to be lived. I need to get with the program. 66 is only 10 years away. It might sound morbid: my father’s death drives me. I am ever trying to outrun my own death. If I keep moving fast enough, maybe the cancer won’t be able to catch up to my pancreas.
Yet, even as I write this, all I can think about is a cake that’s sitting in our kitchen. I won’t lie. I’m going to eat some as soon as I publish this. Then I’m going to bed. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, blame it all on that cake.”
Other posts about my Dad:
I was going through a box of keepsakes in the spare room and found an enveloped marked, “Daddy Snyder.”
Inside as an elephant from my daughter, Hannah. The elephant must be at least 15 years old. It warmed my heart to find him.