Precisely near death there is a tremendous possibility of freedom.

Advaita Post, Volume 9, Number 4

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Meeting with the Project group Psychotherapy, Psychiatry and Spiritual Healthcare on 22 February 2008

Theme: Guidance for Death and Dying

What has emerged here tonight is very special. A few years ago it would not have been possible. It has a continued effect in personal experience so that it really works. And you can also see its effects on others. That is remarkable, and you may have also noted that this is not to be found in many other places.

Open-being as guidance

It is obvious that whenever you return to your Self, the openness comes and the other person notices it, too. That’s the central process. Then who is the ideal guide? That would be someone who is continually sitting in Being, totally open. Then there is nothing more to be done, because then the other person also comes to the experience of Openness. There is no duality anymore.

Precisely in the terminal phase various masks and armor disappear and the sensitivity is greater than it usually is in other people. Non-duality then can be experienced by most people with relative ease. It’s actually a very natural state. All the created patterns are learned secondarily; ego tension is learned, the resistance mechanism against the forces that might affect this ego tension is also learned . The fear that is involved has a direct connection with the limited identification with the I-existence. At the end of life, this is a very acute issue, because it is the experience, “I am going to die”.

When you are there as a guide the situation improves the more you have already abandoned all these things, so that you can stay stable in the Openness. That should be a central point in the courses that will be given.  So it is not so much about the skill to communicate well, etc., it is the quality of yourself, because that is decisive, and you would wish that for everyone, including the terminal patients; that they may also experience the openness and the release of the I-tension. So that is what non-duality is all about and that’s the absence of two-ness. As long as a border exists, you are back in trouble. In non-duality you are going to experience that there are no borders, that there is no limit to time. When you are really in, you can say, okay, I was born, but what does that mean? You are yourself and immediately there is the experience that this self-being is not bound by a birthdate and a date of death. That consciousness is extremely important. When you really are your Self, then there is no longer a care about yourself, then there is no longer an ego, that egocentricity. So for you there is no birth and no death. There is only the total openness and then there is no separation anywhere to be found, there is no duality.

Question:  That also explains why some people go towards death peacefully? They have already released so much…

Exactly. So when it comes to guiding – as it is always said – just be there. But it does have this depth, this consciousness being present. There is no birth. There is no death. It is completely open. You can actually say nothing about it. There is no resistance any more; because there is no longer the identification with a particular personal life that should be maintained or that comes to an end in a very sorrowful way. There is no resistance, the borders have dissolved. There is no time, there is no birth, there is no death. That is the real non-duality. Everything is gone. In order to come to this, you will probably have had a period in which you came face to face with your own fears. From an I-centered point of view the fear is very obvious. But when that is transcended and resolved in a good way, then the situation is totally open.

Openness also outside the guidance

You all have experienced this now as a guide. The experience of ‘there is only being’ is becoming increasingly stronger.  You can also recognize how that total openness is present with the dying. You all say it’s so good to be there. But how does it continue? That’s the next point. Whenever you can be yourself in a relatively protected environment like a hospice or with someone at home, you will see that this sphere can quite easily spread to other circumstances, such as when you go grocery shopping, or when there are all sorts of other people around in a hospital.

Question: But when I try to speak about it, I often wonder: will others understand?

You have to let go of that, both for terminal patients and for colleagues. What matters is that you are steadily stable in being present, even at the grocery store, at home and everywhere. That is stabilizing. Such a specific situation (being with the terminally ill) is a very good opportunity for learning.

Coaching during and after death

One more thing about the transition in physical death. Sometimes the best way forward isn’t just silent presence. When relevant, it can be good to give some instructions. It depends, it must be useful. It may be that someone wants to talk about it, about his struggle, his fears. Then the important thing is to speak from experience, then something can be said. Of course, openness is the centre, but in some cases, when the other before you is open and there are problems, some guidance can be given. But it must be from your own experience. The best tour guide is someone who knows the places where you are going. Then you have confidence in the guide. Through his own knowledge there is peace and quiet so that others can say: okay, I will go with you. It has to do with the sometimes difficult process of letting go. The “I don’t want to let go”, “I want to live for whatever reason, and I see that it’s not possible to do so”, “what comes after this life? It is probably really bad; a judgmental God or a guilty feeling.” Then it may be good to say something about that, again, from your own experience.

In the Tibetan tradition, you also have guidance beyond the boundary of the physical death. That is not different from the guidance before death.  During, but just after the physical death, you are in a reaml in which a certain presence is still apparent, a subtle-energy personality not entirely connected with the physical body. If there are any terrors emerging from the personal situation and there is a relationship of trust and openness, something can be said about it. If only to say: we let you go, look at the light. Then that is something more than just being open. It is a piece of instruction in the letting go. If it is good, then that’s also what happened in life, but at this stage it comes up so quickly that there are many possibilities. When you are a good guide, then it’s important that you have knowledge of the basic openness, the non-duality, and additionally of those different stages people go through from an I-person with an I-center to a release into the total openness. These phases can be very painful, and may be accompanied by less beautiful visions, and so on. The more you remain in yourself and are clear, you will be able to recognize the process more clearly. If you have experienced death consciously during this life, then you know the stages that someone in a terminal condition, and even a bit beyond it, may experience. In the light, which has the quality of Light and Love, you and the other can release the concerns and tensions of the I.

When a patient is going to die, sometimes even at an earlier stage, the experience of that patient’s hard, material reality disappears. There is a certain energetic-emotional atmosphere in which things can still happen. Then it is possible, as in Tibetan Buddhism, that the guide can still give advice: don’t look at the sorrowful things, the pain; but experience the space, experience the light. In Tibetan Buddhism it is also said that just after the physical death you have very great opportunities because it still quite acute. It’s only when you are very strongly committed to the physical form, that that energetic form like a kind of soul, that the physical body will return.

The boundary between life and death is not totally clear. Even when there is cardiac arrest or a halt in brain activity. Where does the boundary of the complete death lie? When you are in that very subtle energetic sphere with this other person still present, you find that life continues to exist for a period of time. It becomes increasingly subtle. When you are present at such levels, there is also an experienced reality. And that goes a long way. So in all these stages, even after the physical death, release is still necessary until finally everything is fully released.

Non-duality

Non-duality is That which precedes all the structures of the person and all experiences in connection with those structures. Sinking into yourself goes further than those structures. In that sense, you are sinking, even through the death of your own I-person. Then you see that the ‘I’ as a center of tension, dissolves. You can stay in that depth as consiousness and openness.

When it concerns a path of spiritual liberation it’s exactly at the end of life that there is a huge opportunity to let everything go. Precisely because it so acute. It’s all or nothing. When you still choose to hold on, it’s immediately clear that this is terrible suffering. This happens during life too, only then, the situation is usually not so difficult. At the end of life it’s really black and white. You feel that everything slips away from you. What do you do? Try to hold on even tighter? You experience immediately: it creates tremendous suffering. So in this situation, there is a very big possibility of liberation. You see it too in many people who were never very spiritual in their lives before, they learn it then at the very end, because it’s so immediate. It’s either one or the other. When there is trust in the guide it’s a good opportunity to become more conscious of the mechanism: hold on tight or let go. When the guide can project freedom it’s easier for the other to recognize it. Keeping busy with ‘I’-worries and ‘I’-dependencies limit life terribly. The meeting  of life and death: what does it mean? That you come completely free of it. To let go of relationships on the ‘I’-level by completely severing ties is obviously wrong, because that’s an ego resistance. It is just about becoming open: life and death belong together and that is the basis on which life itself, in a very rich way unfolds. You are that life and you are not dependent on it. This is very  important for everyone and when it becomes clear in the terminal stage then there are many less problems.

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