Over the Easter Weekend we will be running a special workshop entitled “Spiritual Care in Death And Dying.” The hope is to offer support and guidance on how to care for others as they face the end of their lives and how to prepare consciously for the inevitable truth that each of us one day will come to the end of this precious life that we have. I believe this is such an important subject, and that we would all benefit enormously from investigating deeply this whole subject; even to the point that I feel we will never feel truly free and at peace in life until we have made peace with the idea of death.
This week I have posted a piece on the energetic process of dying and how our meditation can profoundly support us at this axiomatic time…I hope you find it useful. For details on our special Easter Weekend see here.
“So this deep stillness I ask you all to connect to when we all tune in when we meditate, once you begin to recognise it, you can begin to align your attention with it, and eventually enter completely into it within your meditation. As you become absorbed in that state behind the arising and passing of things, eventually what arises and passes fades away from your perception until eventually you are left with just that profound, spacious, deep state of stillness and peace. As you emerge out of your meditation, things arise and pass, but the gap, that basic space, remains there.
Do you bring your attention to that which is arising and passing or can you continue to abide in that space from which it is arising? That’s our challenge – to stay awake when we would normally fall back into ordinary consciousness, ordinary perception, where we are fixated upon the appearance of things and lose our connection to the ground from which they arise. In a way we go back to sleep as we emerge from our meditation. Ha, ha…
And what would make that experience that you just had more beautiful? The fact that we are able to engage completely with it, that we are completely with it, without distraction, that it has all our attention so that that pristine clarity, that spaciousness, the settled-ness of it, that peace, all of those things that are within it, are revealed to us more completely, because we are completely focused upon them. As we emerge, other things draw our attention, but the key is to keep some part of you connected to that.
It’s a stream which has run through your whole life and will continue to run through the rest of your life and when you die – this is the one thing that will be constant. It was there at the moment you were born, it will be there the moment you die, and if you spot it, it will be there after you die. What won’t be there after you die is all the noise and obsessing of your lower-mind. Well, in fact it will actually be there too, when we die as we go through the process of ‘reviewing’ the life. At that time, if you still choose to cling to those states of ordinary mind as ‘me’, then that attachment will be the cause for your renewed becoming.
But if you can spot this basic state of purity, this field of pure potentiality from which anything can arise, from which you and I have arisen, then if you can enter that which has always been there at the time of death, then there lies a precious opportunity to free yourself from all the clinging of your lower mind and the karma it has accumulated. To die consciously is a very special thing, and a time to free yourself of all these things that you are trying so hard to free yourself now in the life.
But to do so you will have to have a close relationship to this state so that you will recognise it for what it is when you die. And you will have had to develop a genuine willingness to relinquish all the other things you have clung to in the life. If you still insist on clinging to them at the time of your death, then you will not liberate yourself. You will be drawn back by your karma associated with all of this clinging.
And this clear light, this state of absolute peace and clarity, is there with you every night when you’re asleep, yet you don’t see it. And it’s there in the gap between every moment of arising of your mind and you don’t see it, and it’s there as you pass away. Most of you will see it then. Most people see it then for the first time and yet because we are so wrapped up with these illusionary impressions that we believe are ‘me’, with all our attachments to our ideas and our experiences and we believe what is appearing to us when we die is real, we become fixated upon all of that stuff and fail to enter into that space which can liberate us at the time of death.
During that time, just as during our life, at the time of this, “reviewing of all these ideas of me and all of my experiences”, we become fixated upon them and fail as a result to recognise that pristine ground that they are arising from. All those impressions that you’ve accumulated in your heart over this life will all arise out of your heart as you die, and you can either choose to grip one of them, battle with some of them, or you could recognise that they are arising from this basic state of awareness that has been with you always.
And when you see that that is the true nature of your mind, the Buddha nature, this fundamental square-root of your being, then hopefully you will incline towards and stream with that as you pass away, and not pull this stock of attachment and clinging and aversion along with you. This is the only way to free yourself at death of the karma you have accumulated in the life. Otherwise that karma will then become the cause of renewed becoming.
This is why we have to learn to transform our attachment into Appreciative Joy, so we can appreciate the things that are dear to us and not cling to them. Appreciative Joy is the highest state of love, because it just recognises that, “this is not mine but I can deeply appreciate it and deeply love it in the knowledge that it’s not to be clung to,” whereas the attachment to it as ‘mine’ smothers that higher aspect of love and shrinks it.
So part of our awakening is to transform our understanding and experience of love – from the love of, “that which is mine” to the love of, “all things for what they are.” That’s true appreciative joy. So, your heart can still be filled with boundless love and compassion and appreciative joy for all beings, all those who are very dear to you but, at the point of passing, they are released painlessly. ‘Suffering’ is the pain of clinging because we are all going to be separated from everything that is dear to us at some point in this life. Whether it is because they are taken from us first of whether we are separated from them through our own passing away.
“What do you know to be the truth?” Well, dying, this is one of the few things we absolutely know to be the truth, but we do struggle with that as an inevitable truth. It doesn’t mean that we should live in a morbid state of “Oh no, everything dear to me is going to be stripped away.” Rather, it means it should be the encouragement, the invitation to completely embrace what’s with you right now for what it is in the absolute knowledge that it won’t last forever, that it is a gift that appears in your life for a moment and will pass in time.
There is nothing in this universe that lasts indefinitely. One of the great causes of suffering is clinging to the hope that we might be the only one, or those around us might be the only ones that will last indefinitely. It is a cause of great pain to be separated from that which is dear to you, but that is the pain that is part of life and every time we go through that it’s a rite of passage.
However, it would be unbearable if we didn’t come to the knowledge in time that that was always going to happen, that the joy of life that we are blessed with is the opportunity to engage in it, but it brings with it the absolute knowledge that it doesn’t last forever. Now that reflection could be the cause of your terror, your misery, your suffering and your sense of woe. Or it could just lift you to say, “How extraordinary these few moments we have on this planet are! They’re not to be missed with regret and woe and worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow. They’re to be completely entered into. Now, because they’re so precious.”
Now, it’s an extraordinary transformation and it may not happen suddenly. But out of that place of fear, where we try to pretend to ourselves that the inevitability of the passing of things might not be inevitable, out of that place we have to come to a place of complete faith and trust, and love, and ‘willingness’ to love. And when you are willing to love everything in this world in the knowledge that you will at some point be separated from it, when you get to that point of fearlessness then you are not afraid to love completely.
I asked you, “What is the next thing that arises when you touch that pristine place of purity in your heart?” Well, what is it? When you come to know that place within you and you realise that it has never been disturbed and will never be disturbed, the next thing that arises is love. “It’s so beautiful! It’s ALL so beautiful!” That love arises from that place which does not favour one being over another, it just loves things for what they are now.
That boundless love does not suffer from the separation from what is dear or the misery of not getting what we want, it just loves things the way they are. That’s Unconditional Love, and it’s not born of a reflection, “Six billion people on this planet, we’re all the same, I should love everyone the same way,” because this is merely view.
Burgs is running a Spiritual Care for the Dying workshop over Easter, if you are interested please click the link for more information.