George Clark, 02 February 2008
Yesterday there was news of a double suicide bombing in a pet market in Baghdad. More than 70 people were killed and many more were injured. Had a religious adept been one of the mortally wounded would their last thoughts have been different from those of ordinary people? Perhaps.
It is said that when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, he raised his hands in prayer, inclined them toward his attacker, recited his mantra, and died such presence of mind.
I think of these things as I lie in bed avoiding the Saturday morning snow. 'I' am not in control of the thoughts and feelings that pass through 'my' mind. But I may have graduated to the stage of being a sometimes watcher.
"Meditation does not involve trying to change your thinking by thinking some more. It involves watching thought itself." (Kabat-Zinn (1994))
This morning I have been watching re-runs of my various near death experiences - motor bikes crashes, potentially fatal tropical diseases, the bombing incident in Zambia. But memory is a poor guide to the past. I have no clear and certain view of where my mind went during those crisis times. There is only speculation. Let it go.
"Awareness is not the same as thought. It lies beyond thinking although it makes use of thinking, honouring its value and its power. Awareness is more like a vessel which can hold and contain our thinking, helping us to see and know our thoughts as thoughts rather than getting caught up in them as reality." (Kabat-Zinn (1994))
The time will come when the last thought will occupy my attention centre. Will 'I' be present for it? I might avoid suicide bombers and assassins and more or less graciously slip into old age. But, one way or another, the time is coming when the off switch is flicked. We all face sudden death.