11 Sep 2013
September 11, 2013

Finding a Way to be With Death

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Aging gives us a chance to learn to use the shadows in our life as vehicles for our awakening — and the longest shadow of all is death. How you relate to death is the key spiritual work of aging. And how you see death is a function of how much you identify with that which dies. Egos die. Souls don’t die. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:

But this: that one can contain
death, the whole of death,
even before life has begun,
can hold it to one’s heart
gently, and not refuse to go on living,
is inexpressible.

I encourage you to make peace with death, to see it as the culminating event of this adventure called life. Death is not an error; it is not a failure. My astral teacher, Emmanuel, says it is like taking off a tight shoe. Confucius says, “Those that find the Way in the morning can gladly die in the evening.”

For some of us, the subject of death is easy to talk about, and for some of us, it’s a little threatening and frightening. I recognize all that. But part of the essential spiritual work for us at any age is to find a way to be with death. An old tombstone inscription reads:

Dear friend,
Please know as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now so you will be.
Prepare yourself to follow me.

Take that epitaph as a blessing from beyond, and let us prepare ourselves. I realize it’s presumptuous of me to talk about death, as if I know about it, but I have chutzpah, which is Sanskrit for “a lot of nerve.” In my meanderings through realms of consciousness over the past fifty years, something happened to me that changed my attitude toward death. A lot of the fear that surrounds death has left me. Partly that is from being with my guru and getting glimpses of his perspective. He saw life and death from beyond the physical body, as part of a long parade of births and deaths.

- Excerpt from Polishing the Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart 

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  • Susan B

    This post came at a good time in my life! Not fear of death for myself but for a loved one with advanced cancer. I guess what Im saying is…how am I going to deal with this inevitable ending of that persons journey on earth? The unknown is the hardest part of everyday life.

  • Georgina Yael Johnson

    Love the sanskrit.

  • Christina Newdeck

    Your Article was initially published the day my aunt and I flew home from CO to NJ to begin the process of saying goodbye to my mother(‘s body) who passed Sept. 10th, 2013. Sweet to be reminded it’s the ego and not the spirit that is gone. My mother does communicate. We feel her but I get upset that I cannot touch her. The human touch is so so beautiful. My yoga practice/teachings of breath awareness is helpful, however, I sometimes just wish she’d call my name, give me a hug and ask her to help her make her own bed, go to wawa for her cigarettes, find her reading glasses or tell me to make my own bed. Things of annoyance, inconvenience or simple irritation I’d welcome today.

  • http://www.chroniclesofhan.com/ H Gibson

    Dates are the anniversary of the discarding of the flesh, of
    the separation from physical incarceration back into the loving realms of true
    existence. Still, it is hard to leave living loved ones behind, it is harder to
    have to come back, take up another incarnation and progress with life in
    another body while being aware of loved ones from previous lives. Through the
    ages we lose many loved ones, to gain many more and in-between our
    incarnations, whilst in true spirit form, we remember them all, near or far,
    the soul never forgets.

  • Kristina Mercy Marya-Friman

    Sometimes, I feel as if I court death, just to get it over with.

    • Bruce Taub

      yes