Accompanying Death

Accompanying Death

I’ve came across this sweet and aching little video and it has gotten me thinking on a topic that I admit makes me uncomfortable – DEATH.

There’re plenty of self-help books, sayings and quotations about how embracing our impending death helps us to seize the moment and make the most of life. That is quite true from my experience. Some of my clients have literally had near-death experiences or as the Chinese like to say “took a bit of a spin outside the gates of the underworld and made a U-turn.” Almost all of them have reported a serious change in how they looked at things, and what they prioritize in life.

A large handful became more relaxed and open-hearted.

A lot of these clients have also learnt to take major risks in their lives because they know first hand how fragile their existence can be, and that they could easily miss the opportunity to do what they’ve always felt was important for them, in the next moment.

That’s wonderful, but there’s a small problem. We’re not all going to go out to achieve near-death experiences. That would be pretty dumb. How then can we achieve the kind of open-hearted courage that have come to those who have had near-death experiences?

Some self-help books and programs have detailed exercises getting us to vividly imagine ourselves on our death-beds filled with regrets. Some go so far as to encourage us to imagine ourselves JUST before the lights go out for us. I guess the purpose of these exercises is to help us EXPERIENCE something of a near-death situation.

However, I find that these kinds of exercises (if they work at all) end up breeding a kind of greed driven by fear of losing out (FOMO) because of its tacit emphasis on loss. To a certain extent, it’s also why I’m slightly uncomfortable with the courage of those who have had near-death experiences, not that I begrudge them that mind you. Their courage is also based on loss or FOMO.

It’s still based on a fear of Death.

On the other hand, the video shows something quite different. It shows a subtle but entirely different RELATIONSHIP to the Big-D. There’s no fear of Death and the loss it would bring.

Instead, there’s just a COMPANIONSHIP, first awkwardly negotiated, but later more comfortable, with Death. This kind of relationship helps us come to a sense of peace, an easy comfort with the struggles and anxieties of life. Death, after all, would take care of all things as it’s the Great Equalizer. In the certain knowledge of our own personal Death, we know are not alone anymore. Death’s always there.

All it takes is to recognize it.

After all, we’re already dying the moment we’re born – as the late Terry Pratchett said: “It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.” Death is ever our constant and most faithful companion. It’ll never fail.

Am I suggesting that you embrace Death? No! That would be Nihilism and highly irresponsible. Look closely at the video. The deer did NOT embraced her Death. Nor did she run away from it. She just allowed Death to be there with her, and acknowledged its existence. Wherever she went, she let Death be close by her.

But they never touch, until the very last moment when SHE was ready. They touch on her terms. But because of Death’s presence, the deer’s life become fuller. Death had shown her how to appreciate whatever is there in the moment, because she had to show Death what was worth appreciating about life.

I wonder, as you sit there and read my post and watch the video, what comes up for you in your body? What’s your whole physical/felt sense of my post and my video? Where does this sense lead your mind to?

Could you perhaps feel an echo of that anxiety around Dying? Or like me, do you feel a part of you going fuzzy, as if to block out the notion of Dying, making it ONLY a concept? Could you get a sense of what’s behind this part?

To me, these feelings and more, feel like reminders of the Presence of our own personal Death. Our Shinigami (as the Japanese call them).

Could you perhaps make space for these feelings, and in so doing, make room to accompany your personal Death? Or even simpler, could you treat all anxieties and fears as a marker of the Presence of your personal Death?

And from there treat THAT as a reminder to wake up and appreciate what’s underneath our very noses?

As the late British practical mystic Douglas Harding said, “It’s incredible to even have existed at all.” What a pity to waste our existence by missing it.

It’s a heavy topic, but I would really love to hear your thoughts on this. I’ve still only started to grapple with it myself.

[CAVEAT! For those who have had some traumatic experiences - including your own near-miss with death or having someone important die or if you’re struggling with grief or if you’re just plain terrified - DON’T DO THIS PRACTICE!!!]



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