When I got the call on Christmas Eve, I thought, "This is it, my mother is dying." But with hands-on care, this 89-year-old woman fought off yet another round of pneumonia and held death tenaciously at bay. The time I spent with her in the hospital and during her recovery at home brought my busy work life to a standstill and slowed me down enough for some time for reflection on death and dying.
Years ago, when I traveled in India and Nepal to study with healers and sages, I was amazed at what I could see on a daily basis right out in the open -- sickness, deformity, death. Not hidden away behind hospital or institutional walls, not covered up in any way. I saw lepers and people with incredible deformities begging in the streets. I saw processions chanting the names of God while carrying a dead body wrapped in a cloth and watched the cremation by the banks of a holy river. All was as it should be, children played around the fire, and life went on.
And then I'd be back in America, where dead bodies are no longer laid out on home dining room tables for visitation. As a result of hiding away what is simply a natural part of life, many have become scared of infirmity, aging, and death. Death is totally in the closet.
I know some who can't make themselves visit a loved one who is dying in a hospital or extended care facility. They are too shaken by the person's loss of control over their life, by the once-powerful loved one or friend now curled in fetal position, by the tubes and machines that prolong an unconscious life, by the death rattle and final breath. The businesses concerned with dying in the West promise you will never have to stand face to face with the messy end of life. The body will be whisked away, cleaned, dressed, and made up to look like a ghostly reflection of its once living self.
Yet that is all about the body and its life cycle. What about your consciousness? What about the "I" that is witness to all that happens to your body? As a spiritual teacher and energy healer, I know that death is not the end of anything except laying to rest a sick and weary physical body. Who we are -- who we really are -- goes on. Having been initiated into the realms of higher consciousness, I have expanded out from the body and know the skin is not a boundary. I have left my body and traveled to places my physical body will never know. Consciousness can roam far and wide in the quantum fields of energy. Consequently, I have no fear of death -- in fact, I'm rather excited at the thought of that ultimate adventure. I want to be awake, aware, and unmedicated.
Yet while we want to be ready for death, we don't want to seek it out. The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Vedic text, teaches us that "death is not your friend." We need to fight hard to use each breath, each moment we are graced with in this lifetime to resolve the intricate complications that arise in every single human interaction. Thus, my mother and I have been blessed with this magical window of time within which to mend the wounds and find common ground.
Are you someone who is using every available moment to mend the relationships you have? And when your time comes, will you be willing to let go, to release your attachments to the physical plane filled with the people and things you love? To make the most of the time we do have here, you need both a warrior spirit and the ability to let go. You need the courage to face your issues while surrendering any fear or expectation of what might be.
At some point we learn that we are indeed mortal. Deny it as we might, death comes for everyone. Instead of being frightened by this reality, try turning your attention to some preparation: throw away your outdated limiting beliefs; scrub away the fears that leave you anxious and unhappy; straighten out and forgive the relationships that have hurt you; turn your negative thoughts into a garden of rainbows; polish everything with the shine of love. And when your time comes to face the Great Unknown, you will have no regrets about the life you have lived and be ready to embrace what lies ahead!