Charles Robinson, 69, has been practising kirtan-sound meditation since he was 23 years old. In 2001, he was told he had incurable advanced prostate cancer. Nineteen years later he is still dealing with cancer, but his outlook today is far different from when he was first diagnosed.
WhenI was growing up in the 1950s, there was huge promise that science would greatly extend our lives. I remember being told that by the time I got ‘old’, the average age people lived to would probably be about 120 years, and many people would live for 150 years.
But today, while the average life expectancy has increased, mostly due to medical advances, the maximum age people live to has not changed. The longest recorded age for someone in modern times is 122 years, and if we make it to 100, it is still a huge achievement — so much so that only about one person in 5,000 will make it to 100 years old today. And no one has made it past 120 years for a very long time!
We all know that these bodies of ours are going to die at some point. But we usually put this to the back of our minds and get on with life. What cancer does is make it so the reality of death is always there, always there at the front of your mind.
Every waking moment for the first few weeks when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was thinking about death and dying. Usually when you are facing some adversity in your life you can get some reprieve when you sleep, but I found even when I managed to get to sleep I dreamt of death. Sometimes I’d be in a semi-conscious state and trying to sleep, but with my recurring thoughts of death it was often impossible.
Every waking moment for the first few weeks when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was thinking about death and dying.
As well as fear for myself, I was concerned for my family, my wife and my children. And the family business — how would that survive? We also had two children less than 12 years of age and I wanted to be there to help guide them through the difficult teenage years. It looked as if that wasn’t going to happen.
I have spoken to others who have gone through this and it is very difficult to talk to people about what we are feeling. We are reluctant to talk too much to our loved ones for fear of upsetting them. People we thought were friends often keep their distance because they don’t want to talk, or think, and be reminded about cancer, about death and dying.
Whether or not I would be around to help my wife and children really played on my mind. I admit it was a very fearful time for me. I was full of fear.
But the thing is, we all have a ‘genetic disease’ with a 100 per cent death rate. It’s called mortality. It’s built into the body, but we choose to ignore it. We choose to think that everyone else will die at some stage but, somehow or other, we will not.
We all have a ‘genetic disease’ with a 100 per cent death rate. It’s called mortality.
The only way we will believe that we, too, will die is if we go to a doctor and he tells us, “I’m sorry, but you have a terminal disease. There is no cure. It’s called ‘mortaliosis’.” “How long have I got, doc?” “I’m not sure, it could just be hours, or weeks, or some people survive for decades. It’s unpredictable, but it is fatal, so it’s best to prepare and put your affairs in order.”
It’s only when we are told by a doctor that we start to believe we are going to die, even though the evidence of that fact is already all around us. It’s why many people don’t go to doctors — they’d rather not know. But it’s only through knowledge that we can conquer the fear of death.
For me, being diagnosed with cancer is the best thing that has happened to me. It forced me to address the mortality of this body, and in doing so I discovered I was living in a dream state. This material world is real, but it is only temporary. Nothing stays the same.
For me, being diagnosed with cancer is the best thing that has happened to me.
I know the eternal spiritual world exists, and it is so much more than what we see in our temporary day-to-day existence. This spiritual world exists wherever there is a loving relationship with the Supreme Soul and all other living entities. This spiritual realm is the only thing that does not leave me when my body dies.
When we experience this reality, then there is no fear. Instead, there is real happiness.
This is why I meditate.
Thank you and Namaste…
For more of Charles’ writing, visit his blog, www.leavingthisworld.com. To learn more about meditation and yoga, visit www.asmy.org.au.