Death gets a Bad Rap!
I have read some lovely stories of near
death experiences, where people expressed feelings of love and bright
light after they had “passed over” and come back to their bodies to tell
the story. This gave my curiosity a nudge. If so many people had seen
this why is it not possible to have the same or a similar experience while
in a body and living life? Why do you have to wait until you’re dead? And
then you may not even get to know about it.
My ‘experiences’ of these events resonate within me. These memories are not necessarily linear, a remembrance of times gone by. Rather, they are a parting of a veil that shows parallel worlds, of which I have been and am a participant, with a body.
But being without a body is a different thing. It was a realm I didn’t
know much about, apart from a few nice experiences during meditation which
had given me a taste of the
I learned a lot from a friend of mine I met while trying to bring up three teenage children alone in a small Australian country town. This had not been my dream of success. A town once steeped in the traditions of rural Australian life and its simplicities. The farmers who for the most part lived a hard toiling life and had done so for generations left a legacy of conservatism based on a fear that life would not provide for them, or the land would fail them due to its unpredictable patterns of flooding and drought.
was a consequence that I had not planned to live in this a small
Australian country town myself that this was the exact place my
grandmother’s grandmother had settled after arriving on a sailing ship
from Plymouth England in 1840. She traveled the eight hundred miles on
horse and cart from Sydney to find her husband who was a cedar cutter in
the north. These men were the original destroyers of what had been the Big
Scrub or the rainforest, impenetrable to all bar the aboriginal population
up till that time. She gave birth to thirteen children while living in, by
my standards very poor conditions and not surprisingly died at fifty
three. It was the courage and determination of this woman that attracted
my attention when I did read her story.
Self-improvement courses were part of my socializing and held prospects
for a brighter future. I paid huge amounts of money to sit around and be
intimate. Talking with people I didn’t know, telling them the ins and outs
of things I’d thought and done from whatever perspective the workshop
teacher had in mind. All underpinned with a belief that there was room for
improvement. And surely I agreed with this. I tended to forget much of
what the course facilitator had told me by the Wednesday after the
weekend, and proceeded to imagine my own well being in a frame of
reference that had little to do with the pain I felt. I could justify
anything with an idea of future yearnings. Usually I met someone to have
an affair with at these things.
And the death of my friend who I met at this particular workshop helped greatly with my knowing this experience of quantum realization.
After two unsuccessful attempts at a dinner invitation, I finally got him to agree to come to my house. Into my well boundaried life, never to be mussed up and looking oh so professional, came Willem. He asked me questions about everything I believed and did. He laughed both with me and at me. My most precious icon was my gurus, Swami Muktananda and Swami Chitvilasanda, affectionately known as Baba and Gurumayi. Their pictures were hanging on the walls, gathering dust. The idea was that I only had to glance at them and I would remember God. “Well, do you?” he asked. My immediate fury, answered my question for me. But the self-righteous loftiness, in which I indulged, didn’t budge much for a while and I continued to enjoy the perfume of religion.
I dragged him off to satsang and tried to get him to fit in to my long-gone joy in this “spiritual” practice. It was suggested and I believed at the time that these gurus would be my salvation out of a life of pain, anger and disappointment. Increasingly I saw that my resentments were a useless attachment that meditation was never going to solve, simply because they were still there shortly after my eyes opened and the subconscious desires, longings and repressions would surface and I had no idea what to do with them.
The rollercoaster of meditation was ceasing to be effective. What kind of a person does these spiritual practices for sixteen years and then discovers nothing has really changed? I felt like the ultimate failure; both on earth and in the other realms that I was supposedly able to contact and live in, along with the happiness of daily life. I was learning that yoga was life in graceful action. Wow! I was more like a dump truck from hell.
While I had experienced the expanded feelings of spirit available from
meditation I had always wondered what the death thing was, but it scared
me. I didn’t want to think about it too much. Even my nice ideas about
letting go of the body and transitioning used to make me feel frightened.
I really couldn’t contemplate being without a body. What would I do with
myself? How would I defend myself? Would all my thinking be exposed? How
would I maintain my privacy?
His alcoholism was just a word to me. And so Willem moved into my house, my bed and my life. I laughed every single day at something; I didn’t know what it was. Maybe the good sex – or just having sex! Nonetheless I laughed and for me that was big. He was a bit like eating great fish and chips by the seaside sitting on a wharf dangling your legs over the edge watching the sun play circles in the rippling water as it hit the barnacles on the posts. Then scrunching up the paper and throwing it in the bin, full bellied, kind of not having to worry about anything called time and or where you are. My kids hated him. The boys fought for supremacy and the girl fought for attention. Then the occasional drink slipped in to relieve the tension.
My naivety was well and truly in place, my perception blinkered by a need to think that all was well, and that I could live happily ever after. We went to the horse races. He had an intuitive understanding of horses and a connection to another realm that left me dumbfounded. Watching the dance of an obsessive gambler, I thought, “Surely I’m not seeing this?” I didn’t really know what I was seeing so I buried my fear under my love of money, because at first he won. Lots of easy money came our way. We danced the nights away, gracefully and blindly in love holding a glass of wine, and smiling at each other. We had beaten the odds and come up trumps. He was languid and graceful on the dance floor and when I let go of my need to control everything in my vicinity, I sashayed through the hours. It was pleasant until I noticed that alcohol had become a way to grease the frictions of fear, anger and pain. Dropping the inhibitions of years of correct behavior; I was grateful for my new life and thought little of the destruction that was occurring.
After a few years, Willem went on a “business” trip. And from the
attentive lover, he disappeared, completely, off the face of the earth. He
had told me of the addictions previously, but to me they were funny
stories of a past long gone. It really hadn’t dawned on me that the past
would easily become the future without an interruption that had lasting
Knowing myself to be the same as my clients wasn’t much fun. The boss laughed and welcomed me to the world. Bless his heart. I just wanted the fun and laughter back.
So I took myself off to the Alcoholics Anonymous family group meetings, and got a bit more grounded and started to open up more honestly about my situation.
I was a tough nut, though, and I wasn’t going to let all those gamblers and alcoholics think I was too much like them. I had just happened on this and it would pass.
Well much to both my chagrin and delight I learned more about myself during that time than I’d anticipated. And discovered I was still in love with Willem, so after ten months in rehab, we continued on living together.
My job fell to pieces, and I had an awakening experience. Visited by angels and the like we found ourselves in a daily meditation with Jesus’ A Course in Miracles; we joined a group of people from all walks of life and different backgrounds. Like us, they wanted to know more about themselves and why their lives like mine kept on being so painful.
Willem then began to get sick. His liver had not taken well to the abuse
and was unable to regenerate. He was offered a transplant. But the
prospect at that time of living alone in Brisbane, while we were three
hundred miles south, waiting on a new liver did not gel with the fun he
was having around other like minded and loving people. So he refused. I on
the other hand I was dropping years of tension and self hatred from a
repertoire of horrors that my thinking had hidden.
Yet the sacredness of death was enough for me to want to investigate what lay beneath the fear. I knew that making objects and ideas sacred was the act of holding something away and apart.
My awakening experiences of spirit have shown me everything is inclusive, because my discovery has been that there is nothing outside of me; no God, no past, no future and of course no persons, things or events.
My experience with fear has always been that its object looks a lot like a steel door with bolts and chains and the nearer I got to it, the images would dissolve before my eyes. The light that had been hidden momentarily by the form was exposed as beneficent content. I was then able to laugh at my mistaken beliefs, and rejoice in the new vision.
During my transition from identifying solely with my body as the only life
I had. I looked at my own death. The fear of the unknown was terrifying.
I actually wanted a spiritual teaching without having to go to the very
depth of my own empty hole. This
hole I discovered was only that fear awaiting its conversion to Love.
The only catch with this was my enduring fear of the event. I tried hard to understand something that is not understandable. I lived in a world where everything around me died. I saw loss, tragedy and misery, and while I wanted not to identify with it all. I did.
My mind saw the lot and felt the lot, I could not escape the pain of the world. It was mine. And frankly death looked on occasions like a reasonable out. But with nagging questions unanswered I did not want to leave until some clarity came my way.
So when Willem decided to die. I kind of waited, and would want it to happen because it was so unpleasant watching someone be so uncomfortable in his body with the pain and uncertainty. A body that is decaying faster than its inherent regeneration is an energy drain on itself.
One day Willem said, “I need to go to the hospital.” As we walked down the hall, I asked him, “Have you let go yet?” He said “Yes I have”. I felt no tension and no concern. And I thought, “Whoopee!” At long last the waiting was over. As callous as this sounds, I knew that a decision had been made, and the consequent release of energy had boundless opportunities for renewing and experiencing our connections to God and the infinite.
The last bit of “dying” was spectacular, because of that decision made consciously and spoken aloud. A joining occurred that was to take me through the whole process of “death”, that became my own.
Six to ten friends gathered with us every day and they were constantly in a communication with the “Light” that had come to help. It was an experience of peace and happiness. We sat around his bed and told stories, laughing with each other, including Willem in our laughter.
had moved to America and Willem had no health insurance. He wanted to be
home, in his own place. So this motley crew, took a dying man out of an
American mid west hospital, and transported him complete with oxygen in
the back of a van to his small apartment, where a bed had been made ready.
I had to travel in another car. Watching these keystone cops of the
ambulance brigade just didn’t seem terribly funny at the time.
We turned into a twenty-four hour nursing service, around the clock; we his friends enjoyed the company of his dying. It was like being in a room with a hundred truly happy people. We were solemn but couldn’t help but smile.
Willem’s body had lost all its vitality. He looked small and fragile. The bones protruding from his skin like a coat hanger that had held its garment for too long. He was pale yet gray, his darkness coming from a physical fading away as he with drew all his energy into the midst of his magnificence. I knew he was discovering something about himself that made him happy. Because I was getting more peaceful and his friends were happy to stay in the room for very long periods of time.
When my friend’s body had lost all its energy, and he had gathered up everything he needed to leave the continuum of space time, I found myself in the same communication with him that I’d always had: fun, playful, helpful, and loving. Nothing really changed, for me.
I missed his bodily presence and wanted to play; this normal human grieving process was mine for some time. I cried, felt very lonely, angry, at a loss, and remembered the past often. The day after his passing, when I awoke, I knew he wasn’t in my house, but I thought, “Oh I’ll ring him in Australia!” Then I remembered: it was a new communication now. All the while I was aware of something broader and deeper happening for me. A new openness of spirit that felt cleaner, fresher and more inclusive.
I could now look with a new light at the idea given me in A Course In Miracles that there is no death. In fact a light that was uplifting and graceful as my fears for my safety, lessened and merged with the Christ within. I saw my caretaker as always with me, the spirit of love that I was never alone and my life was more than the identity I’d had as a body.
The whole transition from identifying with the body and the fear of it’s loss to a recognition that of itself the body is nothing and can’t do anything without the mind that informs it. And it is this mind that knows its true source, and has its connection beyond the universe to Mind as Eternal.