Life: A Chronic Condition

Life as a condition generally denotes the state of being human but when health is implied, the meaning involves a defective state. Thus, considering life as chronic implies a wearing away, a wearing down.

Often, I use “chronic illness” to describe my health, although it makes me wince. I am no more an illness than I am a writer, a family member, a friend or a neighbor, although I have met each of these conditions with joy and sorrow, success and failure, the usual mixed bag that is life.

Life with conditions resembles what the Buddhists call clinging, attaching ourselves to this or that. We rarely regard reliving a fond memory as clinging but it is; Michael Singer describes this fondness as “I don’t want this one to go away… I want to keep reliving that moment” forever attached, completely embedded.

Just as chronically, we eschew those memories that are less than fond, even though they are always readily available. From those moments we cannot run fast or far enough, unaware we are on a treadmill of attachment incapable of escaping what we know.

Ironically, a shift in our attention from the known to the unknown of awareness frees us. Being in the moment switches off that treadmill, shuts down that memory to experience what always is, the freedom that is in every moment we ever have. Conditions result from experience but in the moment—the state of being– there are no conditions only creations. Chronically, life is; only we attach.

The ancient traditions teach us that everlasting joy is inevitable when we stop pushing away or holding onto life. The freedom integral to peace and contentment is available in every moment. In truth, freedom requires risk and risk resides in the unknown, not exactly comfortable conditions, or has our chronic response to risk become comfortable.

Embracing risk feels as if we are opening ourselves to each and every moment changing us—we are–as if risk were a mere matter of inhaling and exhaling—it is, if we focus. In a mere matter of a breath, consider the strength of a sigh, an exhaling of what is no longer necessary.

Almost any form of meditation considers the breath. In learning to meditate, I focused on inhaling and exhaling and discovered the pause in between. As basic as the pause is, I had never considered it. Only recently did I realize my daily meditation practice has immersed itself into my daily life: inhaling and exhaling, I release all-too-familiar conditions, as if I were sweeping 10,000 rooms daily, which I do.

For me, it was chronically easy to cling to conditions in the belief they secure one’s life. Labels–gender, occupation, health, neighborhood location–categorize life, as if the familiar confines could stay the constancy of change. I spent a lot of my life that way but I admit to a fascination with risk, which has always served me.

It has taken most of my lifetime to realize that joy, love, compassion, and gratitude are chronically inherent in the risk that is life. These emotions eschew the ego and all of its conditions; these emotions launch us out of ourselves into all of life. They are worth every moment of risk.