end of life considerations

As we age, memory chips start to fail. Cognition, strength and balance all tend to diminish. Often people are aware of this decline and are sad and discouraged by it (as they are by many things). It’s as if they believe this decline means that they are less than they once were. On one level this is true, of course – the physical body grows weak, mental acuity diminishes – but on another, nothing could be further from the truth. The body is weak. So what? You can’t remember something, even your phone number or, heaven forbid, your own name. So what? Those things – labels, memories – aren’t who you are.

Know this: the mind, the one you think of as ‘my mind’ isn’t, in fact, yours, and its preservation is far less significant than you – the mind that you think of as ‘mine’ – think it is. But the thinking mind is incapable of thinking it’s not very important, and so it goes on thinking that… until one day it might actually fall silent and allow a profound recognition that without all its interpretations and opinions about everything under the sun, life is actually very sweet – much sweeter than it was with a mind saying that “this is good” and “this is bad,” “it sucks to grow old,” or (the battle cry of all humanity) “this should not be!”

The following is a snippet from an article written by Roger Ebert’s wife, after his death:

“The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn’t know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: “This is all an elaborate hoax.” I asked him, “What’s a hoax?” And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn’t visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can’t even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.”

This vastness Ebert described isn’t in some other place. It’s right here, right now, available to be recognized by anyone, anytime, in an instant. That we miss this vastness is because we live almost entirely in the confines of the thinking mind. (The thinking mind is useful, of course, but when it never shuts up, there is no opportunity to experience this vastness, the “peace that passeth all understanding.”)

In this day and age there are end-of-life considerations that weren’t required in the past – and still aren’t in some cultures. But in western culture, in our ‘modern civilization’, aging, illness, dying and death have become an industry. So much so that our medical institutions are capable of keeping old people alive long past what would be considered humane (were they a beloved pet). In this, we are displaying an incredible ignorance about what it really means to be alive.

So, in case someone reads this and isn’t aware of this little tidbit of information: Advance Directives are legal documents that determine (to some degree) what happens to your body when you are on your last legs, so to speak, and are no longer able to communicate your desires. You might have a Living Will and all the forms you think you’ll need to be properly cared for during your last days. But if you don’t have Advanced Directives, things may not go as you had hoped (or planned) for them to go. End of life considerations Advance Directives allow your loved ones to know just how you want to be cared for, and give them the ability to back up their requests (to do, or not do, certain things with you) with the medical authorities – who might otherwise, at great expense, plug you in, shove a feeding tube down your throat, poke needles into your veins and fill you with fluids until there is only a shell of a human body taking up space in a bed.

Last but not least I will add this wish for you: if you find yourself in that situation – or a loved one ends up sitting by the bed day after day as your blessed body fades to nothing – may you, and they, be able to surrender to the situation, to touch into that vastness and not be imprisoned by a mind at war with what is.

Bowing…

what remains?

When all around you is falling apart, what remains whole? When the mind’s madness will have you believe that what is, is unacceptable and must be changed, what remains accepting, sane? When pain and grief and sadness seem your constant companions, even as those feelings come and go, what remains constant? When you feel overwhelmed or unloved, what remains love itself – untouched by those transient feelings? When you are certain you cannot possibly deal with what appears in your life, what is always present – with you / within you – embracing every unfolding moment?

Even as this whole, sane, constant, untouched presence may never be noticed by you as you place your attention everywhere but on it – it remains. Just because you think that you can’t see or sense it doesn’t mean it isn’t here. It’s always here. It was never born and never dies. It does not arise, nor does it leave. It has no where ‘other’ to go, has nothing ‘else’ to do. Call it God or Consciousness, the Holy Spirit or Universal Love – the name is irrelevant – this presence That You Are cannot be defined by words alone.

go for the gold

Buddha Quote

The profundity of this statement is lost on all who remain angry, depressed, insecure and afraid because they believe the thoughts that give rise to such feelings. Meditation is a useful tool to help one come to the realization that there is nothing to fear (more accurately there is actually no one to be afraid).

Ramana Maharshi’s form of inquiry – asking oneself, “Who Am I?” – and Scott Kiloby’s Natural Rest and Living Inquiries are also useful tools to get to the root ‘problem’ – a busy mind that believes all that it says. One cannot stop the mind, but only learn to witness it in action without judgment to finally experience the joy of its eventual silence in the face of inquiry and, ultimately, no attention to its demands. In silence one discovers freedom from anger, depression, insecurity, and fear of death.

Don’t seek silence. The one who seeks it will never find it. Instead, let that seeker within you NOTICE where attention is: on the busy mind, or the gaps of silence between all the thoughts and images generated by that busy mind. Those gaps are gold. Go for the gold.

every moment sparkles with freshness

Bee pollinating flowerMost of us don’t realize that we’re not actually in control of our lives… nor of anything at all. The very thought of being out of control causes alarms to sound in our heads, accompanied by a physical sense of dread and panic. But ‘That’ which is in control of our body is the same ‘That’ which is in control of the body of a loved one or neighbor, the birds flying overhead and the bees that pollinate the flowers, the grass in the fields and the evergreens in the forest. ‘That’ creative, animating force animates ALL.

The thinking mind can’t grasp this fact, and never will. But when it ceases believing that it can understand, when it gives up trying to have, or BE in control, then ‘That’ which is in control reveals itself in glorious clarity. Every moment sparkles with freshness, decisions arise spontaneously, life unfolds without resistance or effort.

Blessed is the dawning realization of this paradox: What we think we are is utterly insubstantial and illusory; what we truly are is powerful and real beyond measure or comprehension.

you cannot know…

You can project “into the future” all you want, imagine various paths that might be available to you, possible scenarios that might unfold, outcomes that might transpire. But the truth is this:

You cannot ever know what lies ahead.
The future does not exist outside of your thinking about it.
You can only know what is, in this moment, as it is.
And that is all the knowing you need.

welcome

Don’t make an enemy of your body, your disease, your perceived flaws or limitations, the natural processes of aging. Be kind and gentle to the vehicle – your body – that temporarily provides your beingness with access to knowing itself as form. Embrace your disease as a messenger. Acknowledge your perceived flaws or limitations and question if they are, in fact, flaws or limitations. Who defined them as such? Must you agree with them? Tenderly caress the heart within you. Be grateful to all the mechanisms that operate without you having to do a thing, and forgive those that don’t seem to be working “right” by some arbitrary standard of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘normal’. Consider all that IS – reality itself – to be an invitation. Greet all with open arms, and open heart, a willingness to say, “I see you. I hear you. I feel you. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.”

you are not what you believe yourself to be

“There is no such thing as a person. There are only restrictions and limitations. The sum total of these defines the person. You think you know yourself when you know what you are. But you never know who you are. The person merely appears to be, like the space within the pot appears to have the shape and volume and smell of the pot. See that you are not what you believe yourself to be. Fight with all the strength at your disposal against the idea that you are nameable and describable. You are not. Refuse to think of yourself in terms of this or that. There is no other way out of misery, which you have created for yourself through blind acceptance without investigation. Suffering is a call for enquiry, all pain needs investigation. Don’t be too lazy to think.”

― Nisargadatta Maharaj

the light of the world

Amma and childNo human is born “bad.” We are made to believe (and act out) that we are, by our attachment to mistaken beliefs about who we are and what is real.

We are born lit from within, every single one of us. The torch of Awareness burns in us, eternally, even when it is unnoticed, hidden from view by layer upon layer of beliefs that cause us only suffering.

Turn towards that light within you. Fan the flame of your own Self Awareness and witness the incineration of all the layers of limiting beliefs that bind you. When all else has burned, all that remains is who you truly are: the light of the world.

one earth, many worlds

Earth’s human inhabitants live in their own little world. Each world is composed of the individual’s memories of the past and projections of the future, their hopes and dreams, ideas and beliefs. No two worlds are alike. Meanwhile, reality unfolds, often unnoticed by humans who are wrapped up in the cocoon of the illusory world of their own making.