Ichigo Ichie – Once In a Lifetime Chance

These two words are one of my favourite Japanese expressions. It means something like – this encounter can never be repeated. This is it. A once in a lifetime chance of you and I to be together, in this particular way. The implication is that every such occasion is a treasured moment, and treated as such. Nothing is taken for granted.

This morning I met with a neighbour who I hadn’t seen for awhile, and she told me about the sudden death of her good friend. Out of the blue. It reminded me of a talk I had attended on Monday night, where the author spoke about the fundamental truth that we will all die, whether we are healthy or ill. There is no escape and we have no idea when or how this will transpire.

What he was getting at, is the fact of how unlikely our own demise appears to us or the sudden demise of someone we love. And here is the thing. If we can view death on the horizon, it can prompt us to treasure the moments of our daily living with all those flawed others that we have grown to love and been annoyed with too.

I am still thinking of the strangers who helped me in New York 10 days ago. I will not see them again. I don’t know there names, with the exception of George, from Cohen’s Optical. And yet their unexpected appearance in my life was not just something to be grateful for. It is a recognition that I actually needed them, right then and there. It reinforces my trust in life and in the truth of this Japanese concept of ichigo ichie. I speak of them one more time because I do treasure them.

In times of trouble we sometimes feel, at least initially, that whatever is happening is too much to bear. Cheri Huber, author of “When You’re Falling, Dive,” offers sage advice:

We often react as if life is attacking us. “I’m not going to be able to stand this,” we fret as life pushes us beyond our snug little ego comfort zone.

But we have no evidence of not being able to handle anything life brings us.

How do we know that? We’ve handled everything so far.”

Part of that handling appears in the hands of others. It is thanks to others that we learn to be humane. In Africa, there is an expression, Ubunto, that basically means “my humanity is inextricably bound up in yours. We belong in a bundle of life.” Desmond Tutu

Not everyone gets better; not every illness can be beaten; some of us won’t see next year. And the truth is, we kind of all take it for granted that it won’t be one of us…this earth shattering thing that happens every day. But it might. So let’s live and love. Let’s honestly understand that life is truly precious. Let’s get it once and for all, the impermanence…let’s not wait to save our best and kindest words for the funerals. Let’s shout them out now, while we still have voice left and those dear ones still have ears to hear.

I have no idea whether there is deep meaning in suffering. I do know there is deep meaning in living, and suffering is included. And that’s not all. What is also included is laughter, love, accomplishment, joy, friendship, family in a variety of combinations, coincidences, learning new things, stories, memories, seeing the sunset, hearing not just the first bird song of the day but all of them, spotting the first crocus or bud or blade of grass…resting, walking, eating, saying hello and good-bye, contributing, comforting…And suffering, disappointment, and loss are also included. The meaning is in noticing it all, nothing excluded; giving and receiving; doing our bit. Life is a precious gift, each and every moment.

Note 1: Update for those who have been enquiring: on face plant-my superficial injuries are healing quickly and the fractures and internal swelling will be another 4-5 weeks now. I am medically grounded until then, and as a consequence, have had to sadly cancel my semi-annual programs at Wellspring Calgary,  for this week. To my Calgary Wellspringers, I am disappointed to not see you this week. I look forward to our April time together.

Note 2: I am finding it challenging right now to “not rush and try to catch up.” It is not easy to practice what you preach. I keep on learning. Thank you for taking the time to read this and see you next week, Trudy

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