gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Last Will And Testosterone.

advancing age is a well-charted voyage. everyone knows what to expect, has heard all the platitudes. everyone knows you'll still think of yourself as young, that you'll be perplexed to see the old person in the mirror, surprised that you can't do things you used to, disappointed by a failing memory. everyone knows you'll start to repeat yourself and everyone knows you'll still think of yourself as young, that you'll be perplexed to see the old person in the mirror, surprised that you can't, well, you get the point. i wrote out something to go along with what i call 'my last will and testosterone.'

"i am writing this now simply because i can. i imagine it gets harder the closer you get to the end. you may not remember, your hands may hurt too much, your eyes may be too dim. one thing is for sure: it'd be impossible to write out any last instructions once you're dead.  so, although my life was hugely influenced by ram dass' iconic phrase, 'be here now,' sometimes it's appropriate to plan ahead.

"i hope you'll make sure i really am dead before disposing of my carcass. otherwise, it would upset me terribly and probably hurt my feelings too. i don't care if i'm cremated, buried or strapped to scaffolding as long as i am actually deceased. i lean toward cremation without knowing exactly why. it just seems the easiest, cheapest and cleanest, but i'm open to suggestion. in the case of cremation, however, please dump the ashes either in the himalayan mountains or the gatineau hills. i don't care which, just that it be all in one place. otherwise, i might end up feeling, well, scattered throughout all of eternity.

"tears, sobs or general gnashing of the teeth, while greatly appreciated, are not necessary. nobody should really feel sorry for me. i've done pretty well, had a good run. whatever i have yet to learn will need to wait, whatever that means. the fact is i really have no last instructions or dictates. i just wanted to say bye, so long, be well, have fun and, for heaven's sake, be nice to each other."

when i returned from india, after twenty-three years, i stayed first with my aged parents in their north toronto condominium. on the third day, my uncle morris decided to visit. my dad and i went down to meet his taxi, to help him. as i lifted old uncle morris out of the car, he handed me a dollar. he was giving me a tip. he thought i was the driver. when i finally made him understand that i was not the driver, that i was his nephew, he demanded his dollar back. up in the apartment morris kept looking over at me as though he couldn't understand why the taxi driver was still there.

there are so many similar stories, countless anecdotes we laugh about while also afraid of becoming one ourselves. yogis allegedly age somewhat differently and their deaths are called 'mahasamadhis', ultimate meditations. sri yukteswar, (1836-1955,) was the guru of paramahansa yogananda, the first swami to bring the science of meditation to the west. sri yukteswar had been a bramachari (celibate) yogi his whole life, a formidable teacher and jnanavatar, (said to have attained the level of 'incarnation of wisdom.') right before his death, he gathered his disciples, took his seat at the front of the hall and said: "you watch now. this is what it's all about." then he proceeded to meditate, eventually slipping into mahasamadhi.

"master's body remained unimaginably lifelike," wrote yogananda in his book, 'autobiography of a yogi.' "he was sitting in lotus posture, a picture of health and loveliness. a short time before his death he had been ill. but, the day of his ascension into the infinite, he had become completely well. no matter how often i looked at his form i could not realize that its life had departed. his skin was smooth and soft. in his face was a beatific expression of tranquility. he had consciously relinquished his body at the hour of mystic summoning."

while that example may remain a hard-to-imagine ideal, i have personally witnessed several, even many deaths. suffice it to say that it is my observation that bramachari yogis, monks, long-time meditators tend to 'die well.' i visited my friend shankar, for example, the day before he passed away. when i asked him how he was, he smiled: "well, hansraj," he said, "i'm fine, but this body is finished." i sat down beside shakti kumar, who was lying peacefully on his bed in a coma. i took his hand and whispered: "shakti, it's hansraj. i've come to say goodbye." he didn't say anything, but he squeezed my hand. he died a few hours later.

the point is, being a yogi is in fact a science, a life. it is not just a series of postures, breathing exercises or giving lip-service to the idea of meditation. and the science is actually even more than the eight limbs of yoga: yam, niyam, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dharana, dhyaan and samadhi. what could be more than that? i will tell you.

1 comment :

  1. nice one, nathan. looking forward to seeing your ugly mug again this evening...