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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 42 doorway. When I meditate it’s like calling out a spell in a for- gotten language. The spell slowly traces the outlines of a door, making the way out visible, even in twilight, even in the darkest, most forgotten prison. When we lose money or get a diagnosis, we might decide that this is a bad thing, but we might be wrong. Uncertainty and the unknown are not things to endure; they are things to rely on. If you don’t even consider winning or los- ing, there will always be a doorway. When I had cancer, I thought it might be inconvenient or frightening, but it was interesting. It made me a lot less lazy about being present. There was a time when diagnosis, course of treatment, and outcome were all uncertain, and in that condition my mind reached for certainty over and over again. That quest, being hopeless, brought pain. But when my mind stopped reaching out and fell back into the warm dark of un- certainty, time stretched out infinitely on either side and there was a pool of joy that seemed bottomless—joy in breathing, joy in hearing the birds in the cold before dawn. Having cancer was much more exciting than sitting in an armchair watching the game on Sunday. And everything I looked at had the as- pect of tenderness and delicacy. I looked into the checkout clerk’s eyes and saw the universe looking back. 5. What You Need Might Be Given to You The dark can be warm and beautiful, even if you are complicit in your situation. You don’t have to be innocent. Lots of people used their houses as ATM machines in a fairly reckless man- ner—it seemed like a good idea at the time. There is nothing wrong with noticing this; transgression is a known path to wis- dom. Taking drugs, clueless love affairs, gambling your money away on Wall Street—losing your grip can empty out your life enough for you to appreciate the kindness at the bottom of things. In the end we have to forgive the universe for the way we live in it, forgive it for the mistakes of our own learning. We also have to trust our own responses. When I first sat with dying people, I was aware of how ignorant I was and that I didn’t know the right thing to say or do. I didn’t know whether to say, “Go for the light,” or to read aloud The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or to play Beethoven, or meditate, or tell a joke. And this wonder- ing was just the nature of the mind fetching around, trying to find the right map. Actually, a map wasn’t needed. I truly didn’t know what to say, and if I didn’t just make up some nonsense, words