On Death

Experiencing Death After An Awakening

On Sunday, March 18th, the body of my feline companion of eighteen years took its very last gasping breath and then lay still, emptied of the little spark of awareness that I had known and loved as Frodo, my little fuzz-butt goofy-girl kitty.  (What can I say, I’m not very good at guessing the gender of baby cats).

It was a death that was slow in coming; over her last year, her chronic arthritis and kidney disease started to worsen more quickly, though you wouldn’t know it to watch her launch her tiny spring-loaded body onto the top of the neighbor’s fence – or the top of the kitchen counter to loudly request food, more likely. But by mid-January, keeping her fed, comfortable and groomed required almost around-the-clock care. And it was in this setting that my next lesson about death and loss unfolded.

To be clear, this was not my first trip down this road; I’ve shared my home with feline companions for much of my life and have lost these friends to both old age and accidents. In the past, each of these deaths was filled with not just sadness but a sense of grief that I imagine marks the difference between those of us who have ‘pets’ and those of us who have ‘feline family members’. This was especially true a few years ago during the death of Sam, Frodo’s younger stepbrother (someone is a JRR Tolkien fan) who died of intestinal cancer at the age of ten. Over just a few months, I went from trying to save his life to watching him waste away and die and it was heartbreaking. I can still remember the tears streaming down my face as I sat with him and scritched his ears, already living in a time when I would never be able to see him again. And I remember the anger at a universe that had this animal suffering so.

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Format Gallery

What happens to our sense of ‘me’ after death? Does our consciousness reincarnate in another form to live another life? How should we prepare for our death – and what does that even mean? Insights of the type shared by these six teachers in this video gallery helped me discover a new perspective from which to grapple with such questions about the transformation that is death.

Alan Watts
"A Happy Death"
In this 8-min excerpt from one of his many lectures, Alan invites us to embrace the other half of the natural rhythm that is death.

"You can only die well if you understand this system of waves… that you are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life. These are just two sides of you because 'you' is the total wave. See, you can't have half a wave. Nobody ever saw waves which just had crests and no troughs. So you can't have half a human being who is born but doesn't die; half a thing. That would only be half a thing."

Shakti Maggi
"Nothing Dies, The Endless Kaleidoscope"
Though the video quality is less than ideal, Shakti Maggi's concepts on death and 'reincarnation' (my term, not hers) come through with the loving clarity that is her hallmark in this short 4-min. video.

"The body, it is simply a movement of energy arising from the stillness of your being …[during death, this movement] will be simply receding back into stillness."
"Death: The Essential Teachings"
In this 5-min. video, Adyashanti describes how the process of aging can lead to the wisdom and freedom of letting go.

"But certainly, enlightenment is absolutely intrinsically linked with death. There is no deep lasting liberation without death, without dying before you die, without the psychological self giving way. They're intimately linked; you don't get one without the other. They're absolutely linked together."
Rupert Spira
"What Happens to Awareness After Death"
Rupert explains why we experience different states of awareness and offers a description of 'reincarnation' (my term, not his).

"Remember, the body is an appearance in the mind. So when the body dies, just a particular localization of consciousness disperses… Consciousness doesn’t dissolve."

Terence McKenna
"Life And Death"

A 6-min lecture snippet in which Terence comments on the origins of the body and exploring the after-death space with psychedelics.

"So I think what biology is, is the intrusion into 3-dimensional space and time of hyper-dimensional objects. And the other clue to that, that seems an argument for it, is that we do have this thing called 'the mind' but we can't find it anywhere. It doesn't seem to be anywhere… [at death] I think probably these objects retract back into hyperspace - higher space ... we clothe ourselves in matter but we are not matter and so to actually complete a human cycle of existence, you have to go into death. It's where you came from..."
Eckhart Tolle
"What Happens At The Time Of Death?"
In this short excerpt from an audience Q&A session, Eckhart talks about the transformation consciousness will face after the body's end.

"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal ultimately exists….. Beyond the appearance on the level of form, which is the only level where death exists, it is a transition from one form into another form or from one form into formlessness. That is what death is, no more than that. Nothing real dies…. It's a transmutation of form."

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