When I was sixteen years old, or perhaps fifteen, I needed to make a decision that seemed potentially life-changing. I was in a hostel for a while, away from family and decisions and final exams loomed. Perhaps it was a decision – shall I take Arts or Science? For those were the two distinct streams offered in our education – we had to choose one or the other. I loved biology, but did not want to hurt comatose frogs. I did not think I could do well in Physics or Chemistry though I enjoyed the latter. Perhaps it was something simpler, but I remember needing a perspective against which to view that decision-making process.
That is when it popped into my head: “When I am dying, what will I regret doing? What will I regret not doing?” Immediately an answer presented itself. One choice fell by the wayside – the other offered a clear path forward. I saw myself in old age, on what is called a ‘deathbed’, knowing that death is near, but lingering for a while. I felt comfortable with dying. Death seemed a friend, not an enemy. Yes, I was a teen, perhaps somewhat fancifully imagining myself lying in a bed, mulling over my life. There seemed a lot of light, not morbid in the strange way that people approach death.
It’s the one truth about life! One that we all share- and at that time in my life, I was on a search for Truth, seeking it in universality.
The deathbed regret is possibly one of the best perspectives for living. It helps to immediately liberate you to make a decision. Death immediately brings to mind that we are individual, alone, in a way that does not bring us into ego-separateness, but rather into individual response-ability. Later in life, I was thrilled to discover the book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche which gave many aha! moments. The title alone gives the energy of death its due. Later I learnt of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, written earlier. ‘Dead’ seems dreadful for its sense of finality, but dying somehow does not – for we begin to die the moment we are born and yet we are never fully gone after dying. For this reason, I found death a wonderful touchstone – somewhat like an old familiar wall against which to bounce ideas, an ever-present companion, the best reflector of my own internal state, one that freed me from the limitations of childhood.
Coming to terms with dying helps make you your own best friend, and allows you to live in your fullness – not selfishly but Self-aware, seeking not temporary gains, but long term ones. It gives you a perspective, even when you do not really know if you will have the luxury of living to a ripe old age, as they say!
How are you feeling dear reader, as you read this? If you have read this far, you are aware of the many feelings that have arisen within you.
Breathe. Breathe out a long breath. Then sit back. Feel. Be in yourself. Have you ever felt more alive than at this moment? Be in that moment of aliveness. Feel it. Sense it. 360-degrees vision one way. Then another way. Then another. Sense it. It is your consciousness that you are sensing. Its flow through the many layers of your being. It is timeless, deathless, birthless. In the wonder of its being, all that is not real, not abiding, leaves you.
That wonderful hymn I heard in childhood comes to mind
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changeth not, abide with me.
No, sweet friends, I am not sensing my own death, or that of another. yet people are dying every moment – some to this life and some to the next. We are birthing every moment – to this space, or this, or this. I am connecting with Deathless Everlasting Abiding Transcendent Hue-manity that has arisen on Earth and is going through its own teenage years of expansion.
In the six-ki creation cycle, teenage expansion is accompanied by joy. I don’t see much of that in teenagers today – at least, not urban ones. There are many more responsibilities. Or perhaps I am wrong, and as an elder, need to remember that that fifteen year old did quite well in figuring things out for herself, at a time when all she could do when faced with a decision, was look to herself.
Breathe. Breath is the wonder that links the eternal to the temporary. It is the gateway to death and birth. Stretch and take it in from every pore of your being.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
In loving light,
© 2016 Meenakshi Suri