I want to tell you a story about Maurine Stuart Roshi, who was my heart teacher from 1979, when I first met her, until she died in 1990. A story for this holiday season.
One icy February night in Cambridge, Maurine was resting on the couch in her living room. It was one week before she was to die. I came over to bring her some supper. I felt close to Maureen. We were intimate in the way you may know from sitting together. We know this closeness; it comes from letting go of whatever holds you back, from stripping down to the bare aliveness and radiance of who you truly are.
Straightening up the gourmet cooking magazines on her little coffee table, I decided to go for it. This could well be my last chance to ask her what I most wanted to know: “After a whole life of Zen practice, teaching, and deep enlightenment, what’s the truest thing you can say to me now?” And she didn’t miss a beat. Speaking with her usual authority and power, she said simply, “Live it up!”
I was surprised. After all those years of patient endurance, sitting in the fire….“Live it up!”? This is the wisdom of my Zen teacher, so close to her dying…but what does she mean, exactly? Eat, drink, be merry?
True mindfulness IS living to the hilt, living it up — because awareness can include everything. When our mindfulness gets strong, nothing is too crazy, too weird, too exciting, too scary, too sad, too upsetting, too tragic, too overwhelming or too huge to be held in our loving awareness. Living it up is living fully, taking the time to look deeply, making the effort to recognize and stay with what’s true for us, moment by moment.
Mindful awareness is like a mirror reflecting just what’s happening, like the water of a pond reflecting the blue sky, and the passing clouds. Only here the mirror is awake and sees, and the water is responsive. Our mindfulness, this loving awareness, is our own consciousness actively participating in the ongoing process of being alive — Live It Up! And may your week be graced by moments of boundless love and freedom.
Image Credit: T. Goodman