Thursday, April 14, 2016

How I do and don't want to die

After accompanying my grandfather in his passing I started reading Joan Halifax's Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death.  She offers several meditations.  In the first chapter, she recommends imagining how you do and don't want to die.  I share my reflections here:

Worst Scenario of how I die
I am kidnapped by an enemy and tortured physically and psychologically over a period of time that is dragged out.  Part of the torture is that I don’t get to see my loved ones but instead see videotape of them reacting to false evidence that I have betrayed them and let them down.  I am beaten daily, prevented from doing physical exercise and denied adequate food and water in a process that forces my body to slowly decay.  I am left for hours at a time alone with nothing but a mirror so I struggle to avoid dwelling on my fate.  This happens when I am young, before I’ve had a chance to build a family, before I’ve had a chance to really leave my mark on the world.

How this makes me feel: my gut clenches up and withdraws.  Looking at this scenario, I imagine a sadness so big I can’t even bear it.  It seems more like a comic book or action movie than reality.  I feel fear, anger and sadness.

Ideal Death
I have a year.  I have the physical strength and mental lucidity to engage in conversation, read and write.  I can continue going for walks in the woods and doing yoga.

There is time set aside for me to be alone and time for company.  Sometimes different groups will convene according to category (eg. family or Pioneer Valley friends) and sometimes people from different categories will be exposed to each other.  Most of my time is spent with my closest friends, family and colleagues, though there can be time for less close visitors.  I see my passing as an opportunity for opening that I offer to myself and others.        

We sit in silence, do ritual and sing songs, taking the opportunity of the mysterious transition to cultivate deep presence and heart-opening for both myself and others.  I hold a council circle with my friends and family in which we are all invited to begin the grieving and celebration process together.  We say what our hearts yearn to say to each other, sharing gratitude, requesting forgiveness and offering blessings on our next journeys.  This is a moment of connection with me, with each participant's true inner self and with each other.

I have the support of loved ones to review my past, including photos, videos and journal entries.   From my deathbed, I reflect on my life and my loved ones reflect as well.  We record our proceedings so we may offer them for the benefit of others.

How it makes me feel: I feel warm and happy with these images.  It gives me a sense of peace.  I’m reminded of the apparently ironic tenderness, intimacy and love that emerges with the Auschwitz retreat.

What I am can do to die how I want to die

  • Eating well and exercising can increase the likelihood and lucidity and strength later in life.  
  • To achieve this goal does seem to require some organization of old photos, videos, and journals.  If time were short, doing that on my deathbed could be beyond my capacity.  
  • Caring for my relationships while I’m alive helps ensure that I have meaningful connections by my side as I prepare to transition.
  • Sharing this vision with my loved ones could help prepare them for the possibility that it takes place.

2 comments:

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