Buddhism / Self Awareness

Responses to Death and Dying – Reflections

I sat in the back, shy from being late and keen to get a feel for the tone that had already been set. My heart was open with anticipation, this was a gift I had tasted before and the magic was a powerful one.

The subtle flow that wound around me crept up and begged me to inch forward, closer to the source. Where was that coming from? I noticed an easiness, a relaxed kind of nervousness, we all knew what was coming, it was inevitable. But how would it feel? What colour would it be? Would experience match expectation. Where did that expectation come from?

A shared experience is one more acceptable, friendlier and welcoming. An invitation into a world deep and dark, but not unkind, not restless or wild. I felt a surge of gratitude, and a new perspective opened up for me, a window looking into a garden of new truths, paths leading to more beautiful places and a message from beyond. A message of love. From such a deeply intimate and personal place comes again the wave of connection and shared experience. How can I ever feel lonely now? I can see now how I belong; I belong!

So then, not struggling to let go, but sitting with not holding on and finding a joy arising. Is this black humor gone too far? Am I running or hiding? It feels safe enough. Oh, acceptance. There you are. Turns out I’m not as important as I thought I was, but far more worthy and deserving of compassion, and of love. I hadn’t realised.

And so I feel comfortable with death. The concept. (It’s something that happens to other people you see, something mysterious and far off, shrouded by white lights and beautiful music; well friends and family at least). But then you ask me about my relationship with illness and I write:

Dear illness

I don’t like you. In fact, I feel a sense of loathing for you at the moment. I don’t enjoy your company at all. I loathe the way you debilitate me. I resent the fact you steal my health and I despise the way you impair my life. But most of all, you scare me. You reveal to me my most vulnerable moments, my weakest qualities and darkest scars. You show me the gaps in my amour and force me to face my own mortality.

With deep and sincere gratitude,

Oh yes, gratitude, that’s a nice word. I feel clever that I have managed to uncover the gift of illness, the secret to accepting and surrendering to the control it takes over me. But wait, there’s something else behind that cleverness, something riding a big wave, a huge, thundering wave, coming crashing toward me.

They were not my friends. They left me alone, scared, not good enough, not important enough. There must be something wrong with me.  Listening to the stories of others I feel the wave of tremendous compassion crashing down on me. These are my stories. This is me.

I go on regardless. I care for myself. This is what I do, I care. Oh the juxtaposition; left to care and caring so deeply. The pain of a small girl arises and the wave of tears starts to fall. I feel raw, I feel an arising, I start to emerge. I feel raw.

Illness is a lonely place, a place of weakness and vulnerability, of uncertainty, it is directionless and pointless. What an inconvenience! How annoying for you that I am sick. I am sorry I am not good enough to keep myself healthy, that you have had to change your plans, wasting time and energy. I must be such a disappointment to you. But I am not a time waster anymore, now I deserve care and love when I am unwell. Now I care for myself not because no-one else does, but for them, because I am my husband’s wife, my children’s mother, they deserve my love and return it to me. I care for myself for the sake of my own well-being and those I care for. That’s what I have chosen to do.

But death. Back to you. This human experience is so full of suffering that I write myself a story about a time when I will feel only love, peace and endless, expansiveness. My human mind creates a human story so that my human body can sleep. A release so beautiful, only the strongest heart and purest essence would want to return to this, humanness. And yet, what an amazing experience this is, to perceive and be perceived, to love and laugh and learn and feel. This human body and mind are capable of so much feeling. Feeling so much. Too many feelings.

And then none.

This is it?

Oh. This is it.

Oh.

A transparency settles. A pure, clear glass of water. My perception glides through it. What is this? What have you done to me?

I am already dead. Now I have a better idea of how to live.

Fearlessness. Openness. Vastness. I am facing in the right direction. I keep on walking until there are no more steps to take.

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