Last week a dear friend Diane, 52 years young, let go of life surrendering her physical body to cancer.
Her mental state swung wildly from a euphoric acceptance of the next phase of her existence to a tightening grip on life. As she approached the mortal door, fear spiked up. Hankering for whatever food she can get a hold of to give pleasure to her human taste buds.
As I reflect on her 9-week process, I question the differences between surrendering to death versus surrendering to life. While in her process, I thought “she is suffering herself in the fight for her life. Gripping to survive. She is in denial and believing she will actually heal and go on living.” Now, I think she knew she was dying and in the big picture not in denial. She really wanted to use the time she had to do her work of transcending the distorted beliefs about who she thought she was, effectively and efficiently with ALL of her heart while enjoying what pleasures she could with the time she had left…mainly her taste buds!. The motivating question ”what would you do if you had only days to live” was her reality. The angel of death was truly at the door. She was taking the opportunity to heal her heart and transcend a lifetime of life lessons in a matter of days. She came to recognize herself as light and not the stories and beliefs her mind played out this time around. Yes the battle ensued because her love and pleasures of life were challenged with trusting the unknown that would take away life as she knew it.
What is the same prior to letting go? The gripping sensation with a bottomless pit of fear. The tightening around the heart and gut with spasms & contractions through muscles in the struggle with fighting for life. Surrender to the unknown. The illusion of control.
In the process of surrendering to death, we are letting go completely of life in our physical body. We are letting go of all of it without a tomorrow in human form and all of the familiar structures, senses, nature and planet Earth: Feeling the sun’s warmth upon our face, our skin. Touching the velvety leaves of mullein, the silky softness of rose petals, the hard and rough crystalline formations of clear quartz, the cold from an icy snowball or heat from a roaring fire; tasting the sweetness of a chocolate dipped strawberry, or the salty crunch of potato chips; the savory spices of a Thanksgiving dinner, the sour of fresh squeezed lemonade on a hot Summer day or the pungency of toasted garlic bread. The sweet music that moves us to sing, dance, and move our body to the rhythms of a drum or to be enraptured with an Andrea Bocceli love song. We are letting go of the magnificent blazing colors of a of a sunrise or sunset, the graceful migration of a flock of geese or the deep love emanating through your beloved’s eyes. We are letting go of the scents of the sweet intoxicating fragrance of gardenias, jasmine, roses & homemade bread baking in the oven. Breathe itself. The pulse, heartbeat and all of the physical pains, pleasures, concepts, mental constructs. Our families, friends, conversations, riding a bicycle, swimming in turquoise, warm waters or hiking up a snow capped mountain.
And lets not forget the depths of intimacy, being deeply touched by your beloved or the wondrous, wide-eyed open expression of your child’s eyes and heart. What an incredible life we have. Death as we know is the culmination, the final journey of the physical body.
And yet our true light nature is not about the body, senses & experiences but rather an essence of light without form, time, structure or matter. Though our human experiences are rich with wondrous and enthralling, magical moments that fill us with excitement, pleasure, pain…all of it…living in the unknown of infinite light, now that’s what I call exciting! “I am light returning to light” from the lips of Diane during her dying process.
From an excerpt of the Tibetan Book of the Dead,
“Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest. Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home.”
In the process of surrender, Tibetan Buddhism also teaches that at the point just prior to death, in this single moment from a lifetime of training, we can transcend our consciousness to Dewachen…the land of bliss. This is the First Bardo or transition where the soul can learn its remaining lessons without needing to return to the physical body.
On the other hand, if someone is in fear, confusion, doubt or loss of consciousness, awareness at the moments prior to death, the Tibetan Buddhist’s refer to this experience as “fainting”. Fainting is defined as forgetting one’s ability to control the unruly mind. What can be done if fainting occurs? If we are fortunate to have a teacher with us who can guide us through a meditative practice that can free us & remind us about who we are to seek the place of infinite light.
In surrendering to life we will face our self tomorrow. We will have consciousness & memory of what has passed. We will taste, smell, see, hear and feel our humanity. Breath will continue to flow as our heart continues to pump blood. We take a conscious leap of faith into the unknown having perhaps glimpses of divine infinite light. And yet we still feel scared and the fight as though we were going to die. As the fight ceases, surrender is a moment(s), a flash of freefall, floating where time and space collapses. Peace and pure light radiates in consciousness itself. Bliss, heaven, and then….we reform back to our humanity. For those moments we merge with the clear radiant light and experience our true nature, as we always are and have been. At the blink of an eye we are already here.
Twilight and Dawn
I fall through the stars
With open hands
Only to return again and again
Never quite touching the ground.
With a rush of exhilarating fear
That clutches my heart & belly
As though the ocean pummels my body through
a chaotic wave rushing to shore.
Disoriented and stunned
Filled with the waters of life and emptied through the anticipation of death.
I let go as a feather in my hand takes flight in the gentle breeze of light
Love & trust in this moment
And the next…
In my heart
I have returned.
I ask you dearest beloved, “what was I so afraid of?”
This bliss? This light?
I fell asleep believing the grasp is my nature
I thought I was the back door
And that life was me instead of I am life!
Wake me & touch me even deeper so I may return home
to breathe my light and float in the bliss of all that I am.
In the end, there is no end.