I have been paying attention to my health this past week. First, Monday, there was the visit to my dentist, the ever cheerful Dr. Joe, who poked and probed and only occasionally hit a nerve, cleaned and polished, and pronounced me finally "perfect"--but "not as perfect as Ellie." Believe me, I knew that before he told me.
Then, Tuesday, there was the eye doctor. I wrote about my visit earlier in the week. And Thursday, the big enchilada, the annual physical at our local Kaiser facility. They have a new program for those of us who have reached a certain venerable age. I'm not sure whether it's Kaiser's plan or a Medicare requirement, but it's a forty-five minute appointment which starts out with a form that must be filled in before the examination starts. The questions were somewhat alarming, having to do with my bathing habits and personal hygiene--whether I could still manage these skills all by myself or whether I needed assistance and, if so, how much assistance I might need.
I'm not that far gone. I can still drive a car, read a book, manage my personal finances! But the questions did alert me to the fact that it might not be too long before the physical body starts to go the way of all physical bodies. My daily metta practice at the start of meditation concludes with the fervent, heart-felt wish that I may "look after myself with ease." I dread the thought of being dependent, of having to learn that skill. Some time ago, I reviewed Still Here, by Ram Dass, for the Los Angeles Times. The title is a nice play on the title of the book that brought his name to popular attention, back in the 1970s, Be Here Now , and the book is about his slow--and incomplete--recovery from a massive, debilitating stroke that left him unable to take care of even his most intimate physical needs and led him to learn, reluctantly, to accept with grace his body's dependence on the help of others. It's a fine book, filled with familiar Ram Dass humor and self-deprecation, that describes how this great teacher was forced by circumstance to become, once more, the learner--and eventually once again, out of his misfortune, the teacher.
Those fears notwithstanding, I received from my doctor a clean bill of health. I am indeed, as he put it, "off the charts" amongst my age group. I exercise (almost!) daily in one form or another. I eat (usually!) quite well, though perhaps more than I should. Thanks to my lifelong love of cheese and other such indulgences, my cholesterol level is elevated--but not alarmingly so. It would do no harm to watch it. I do also love my glass of wine, and know that I would be healthier (and a few pounds lighter!) without it. But generally I take heart from the doctor's report, and trust that my body will accompany me yet a little further along this path.
I write all this not because I think my personal health is of great interest or concern for readers of The Buddha Diaries, but rather as a reminder to myself that I am grateful to have discovered in Buddhism and in meditation practice the close-to-the-surface awareness of the fragility of life and its impermanence. It is a healthy thing, for the mind, to meditate on such things and be as prepared as possible for the eventualities that may afflict the body. Mens sana in corpore sano is a motto to live by: a healthy mind in a healthy body. With an emphasis on the mens...