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Reflections..on Being Human
Living Our Dying

Spacer A Life

"Death is another transformation
through which we move,
an adventure to surpass all adventures,
an opening, an incredible moment of growth, a graduation."

Stephen Levine

"The Grace in Dying:
How We Are Transformed Spiritually As We Die"

by Kathleen Dowling Singh, Ph.D.

Spacer "The fact of death is the great mystery and the great truth that illuminates our lives. To face our own imminent death is to examine our lives with an urgency and honesty we may never have felt before.

Spacer A spiritual assessment is a helpful practice as we move close to dying. Such an assessment seems to arise naturally in the course of the profound psychological and spiritual transformations of dying. Since we all share the same human condition, many terminally ill people report asking themselves the same questions. These are many of the questions that those who have had a near-death experience report that they have been asked. They are questions that pierce through the frivolousness at the surface of life and confront us with the value and significance this precious gift of a human life offers.

Spacer It is not too late to take stock of our lives, even in the last weeks and days of terminal illness. And for those of us in the midst of life, in the apparent safety and security of our health, it is not too early. No matter how much time we have left to live, the answers to the following questions, voiced in the quiet honesty of our own hearts, provide direction to the rest of our living.

Spacer Who have I been all this time?

Spacer How have I used my gift of a human life?

Spacer What do I need to "clear up" or "let go of" in order to be more peaceful?

Spacer What gives my life meaning?

Spacer For what am I grateful?

Spacer What have I learned of truth and how truthfully have I learned to live?

Spacer What have I learned of love and how well have I learned to love?

Spacer What have I learned about tenderness, vulnerability, intimacy, and communion?

Spacer What have I learned about courage, strength, power, and faith?

Spacer What have I learned of the human condition and how great is my compassion?

Spacer How am I handling my suffering?

Spacer How can I best share what I've learned?

Spacer What helps me open my heart and empty my mind and experience the presence of Spirit?

Spacer What will give me strength as I die?

Spacer What is my relationship with that which will give me strength as I die?

Spacer If I remembered that my breaths were numbered, what would be my relationship to this breath
Spacer right now?

Spacer Who am I?

Taking a Spiritual Inventory

Excerpt from: A Dialogue With Sogyal Rinpoche
and Swami Virato
On 'The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying"

Spacer "To learn how to die is to learn how to live." It is important to realize that death is not something to be feared as a tragedy, but rather an opportunity for transformation. Death is like a mirror in which the true meaning of life is reflected. Spiritual traditions, such as the Trappist order in Christianity, often maintain a vow of silence while constantly saying, "Remember dying." If you remember dying, you might understand what life is about.

Spacer When we do not understand death, we do not understand life. Even though we know that we will die one day, we think we have an unlimited lease on life. We become trivial and lose perspective. By reflecting on death, realizing you could die at any moment, life becomes very precious. As Buddha said, "Of all mindfulness, and of all awareness, mindfulness of death and impermanence is the most important." Reflecting on death enriches. Death is in many ways our greatest teacher. It enlivens and shows us what life is all about."

Click here to read the interview

Spacer "I wanted a perfect ending... Now, I've learned the hard way that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.
Delicious ambiguity."(Gilda Radner)

Spacer "I have learned that when the process of dying is accepted, the growing awareness that emerges when soul and body actively prepare for this great transition, seems to corroborate all the wisdom traditions of the world." (Carolyn North, from 'The Experience of a Lifetime')

Spacer "Dealing bravely with physical pain or accidents takes one kind of courage," he writes. "Facing life as it is and accepting it requires another....I have found courage through seeking thoughtfulness, openheartedness, detachment, and other responses that make up a composed life and a calm response to illness....I hope that I can continue in this way to the end so that I die with inner peace." (Morrie Schwartz: Tuesdays With Morrie)

Spacer "When you were born you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice." (Unknown Author)

Spacer "People often make the mistake of being frivolous about death and think, "Oh well, death happens to everybody. It's not a big deal, it's natural. I'll be fine." That's a nice theory until one is dying." (Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche)

Spacer "But, although none of us can choose not to die, we can choose how to die. The real question, then, is: When the Angel of Death knocks at your door, how will you greet him? Are you going to receive him as a venerable teacher, or resist him as you would a thief in the night? Are you going to force Death to drag you off to the gallows like a condemned criminal? Or are you going to take Death's hand willingly, as you would that of a Divine Lover who beckons you to one last dance before your present life is over and a new one dawns?" (Joel Morwood: Excerpt from ' A Guide to Selfless Dying')

Center for Sacred Science

The following quotes (and much more..) at this Website

Meditating on dying

Spacer "You close your eyes and imagine that you are on your deathbed.

Spacer You feel yourself drifting. You don't have any more energy to do anything. Your desk is piled high with unanswered letters, bills to be paid, unfinished projects. Either someone else will pick them up for you or they will remain undone. It doesn't matter much. No one will know that the idea you meant to work out never came to expression. No one will feel the poorer for it. Then there are the people in your life. If you loved them well, they will miss you and grieve for you. Over time the poignancy of your absence will fade and only a warm remembrance will be left. There will be those for whom you did not care enough, those you rejected, those with whom there is still some unfinished business. It doesn't matter now. There is nothing you can do about it.

Spacer There is only one thing you can do, and that is to let go. Let the tasks of the world slip away. Let your loved ones mourn a little while for you and then go on their way. Let go of everything, your home, your possessions, your feelings and your thoughts. Allow yourself to float. You begin to feel lighter. You have shed the heavy load you have been carrying. What was the heavy load? It was your sense of self-importance. It was your belief that everything you did had intrinsic importance, therefore you had to do it fully and perfectly no matter what the cost. Or, conversely, it was your belief that your work was so important that you couldn't possibly do it well enough, so the burden you carried was the unfulfilled responsibility. But, either way, don't you see how temporal it is, when you are facing your own death? This practice can help you to learn to do a little less, do it a bit more slowly, do it with care, and do it with love."

June Singer, from 'Seeing Through the Visible World: Jung, Gnosis and Chaos'

Spacer "When we can no longer control the circumstances of our lives, we can still control our attitude about them. We can choose our attitude about dying. We can choose to see it as a tragedy, teacher, adventure, or simply as an experience to be lived. Our attitude will determine the nature of our experience. When we choose to surrender to life, we are free; and when we are free, we are in control. This paradox lies at the heart of our human existence.

Spacer To surrender and to be free we have to accept life as it is instead of holding on to how we think it should be. We can't change something we don't first accept. Surrender and acceptance are not to be confused with resignation and succumbing. Resignation and succumbing are passive - something just overpowered or overcame us and we had no choice but to give up. Resignation is self-pity and believing the illusion that we're powerless. Acceptance and surrender, on the other hand, are positive acts. 'I choose to let go, to give up control and accept life as it is. And there will be things I can change and things I can't.'

Spacer If we deny dying and death, we're prisoners to them. When we accept them, we're free and regain the power lost in resisting them. We let go of our resistance by letting go. It's easy to do and can be hard to get ready to do. The choice to let go must be made in the heart. A choice made only in the head, unsupported by the body, feelings and soul, is unlikely to be carried out.

Spacer If we remember that choice of attitude, the ultimate freedom, is always available, we make a spacious place in which to experience dying. We can be free whether we are dying ourselves or sharing in the dying of someone we love. We can be free whether we die at home or in a hospital. Choosing our attitude is easier at home than in an atmosphere that unconsciously says dying should be isolated from life and is, therefore, not OK. "

Deborah Duda, from 'Coming Home: A Guide to Dying at Home with Dignity'

Spacer "Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master: 'In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness?' The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass which had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, 'You see this goblet? For me, the glass is already broken. I enjoy it, I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf, and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, "Of course." But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is and nothing need be otherwise.'

Spacer When we recognise that, just as that glass, our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, then life becomes precious and we open to it just as it is, in the moment it is occuring. When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead - our children, our mates, our friends - how precious they become. How little fear can interpose, how little doubt can estrange us. When you live your life as though you're already dead, life takes on a new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime, a universe unto itself."

Stephen Levine, from 'Who Dies?'

Spacer Everyone is so afraid of death,
Spacer but the real sufis just laugh:
Spacer nothing tyrannizes their hearts.
Spacer What strikes the oyster shell
Spacer doesn't damage the pearl.
Spacer --Rumi

Spacer "I am the murderer of joy," said the Angel of Death,
Spacer "The widower of wives, the orphaner of children--"
Spacer "Why always run yourself down?" said Rabi'a,
Spacer "Why not say instead:
Spacer "I am he who brings friend and Friend together?"
Spacer --The Sufi Rabi'a

Spacer When death comes
Spacer like the hungry bear in autumn;
Spacer when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
Spacer to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
Spacer when death comes
Spacer like the measles-pox;

Spacer when death comes
Spacer like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

Spacer I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
Spacer what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

Spacer And therefore I look upon everything
Spacer as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
Spacer and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
Spacer and I consider eternity as another possibility,

Spacer and I think of each life as a flower, as common
Spacer as a field daisy, and as singular,

Spacer and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
Spacer tending as all music does, toward silence,

Spacer and each body a lion of courage, and something
Spacer precious to the earth.

Spacer When it's over, I want to say: all my life
Spacer I was a bride married to amazement.
Spacer I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

Spacer When it is over, I don't want to wonder
Spacer if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
Spacer I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
Spacer or full of argument.

Spacer I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
Spacer --Mary Oliver

Closing Remarks

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