Introduction to Death

The feeling of death, confronting the emptiness left behind, is a challenge for each person. No words will fill the void, and yet we are driven to try.

Over the years I have helped many people find peace with death. I initially show others how to understand and then accept death as a transition… We all have a strange dance with death. I have died, I have had many friends and family who have passed away, so I am on first name terms with Death, not a bad fellow at all. The strangest fact which I have only come to realize recently is: Death is purely about our relationships. We don’t mourn our passing. We mourn for those we hold close in our relationships.

The closer or more connected to a person you were, the sharper the edge of death will feel.

Death doesn’t represent any one single definition.

Transition isn’t a static process. It represents many different stories all at once. The passing of the body back into the earth, the process of moving with spirit, the interactions between memories and expectations, and so much more.

Since death is a statement about a relationship, the most powerful answers to help work with death arise from responses that give us gracefully acceptable options towards the reconciliation of the relationship between yourself and those who just passed away.

Dealing with death is reconciliation.

First and foremost, always when looking for words to help another, let the words come up as

Condolences

As simple condolences respect each person’s process coming to terms with so many different definitions and transitions they now face. We often find no single word works, Yet we still strive to console: as if a few keywords or truths could ever cover the fullness of the transition of death and all its faces at once.

One way to embrace this process is discovering your own words & feelings that find completeness in your reconciliation process.

For example:

The Mexican definition of soul is the footprint we leave behind for others to connect to, in that we are present, still after death, in how others remember us. Even the person who passed away can change and grow within the stories we hold of them. The tricky part then is to release the stories that diminish us and to hold the stories that enable us to grow.

Discovering these stories, growing for both you and the person who passed away to become more.

In this we can find our equilibrium between the past , now and the future and not lose those we love.

Blessings as you release those stories that no longer serve anyone
Blessings as you find and refine your inner stories now which serve for your living life now.

 


The edge of death can be very sharp. Don’t let the sharpness cut you off from your own life.

Sometimes tears are the best pillow.

True friends never pass, they merely go to rest in your heart later in life.

Let them rest deeply, in the heart, let your passing friends rest deeply.

 


Death as an experience goes beyond words because it represents when a person melds back into the larger weave of everything. The breaking you will feel from the death of a loved one is both the breaking and failure of words to express your feelings. So the lesson is don’t try to find the words, don’t force yourself to express what is larger than yourself.

Embrace it, view it, discover poetry instead: of the whole experience. The deeper melding of so many images, memories, and connections into something new, hold your former relationship as a form of spiritual poetry in the feelings you now have. In that you will honor the memories and move on to a future without leaving the one you love.

This process of vocalization will allow you to see all of the connections within death itself.

To Discover reconciliation between you and the one you loved.

To Uncover and expand into reconciliation between yourself and the larger universe.

Facing Death

I received this request today

I was recently diagnosed with melanoma, I don’t know the full prognosis but the prospect of an early death has made me very frightened so I’m trying to find a view that gives more internal comfort and might help my feeling of isolation and loneliness in the face of this situation. Any other sections you would advise reading or other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Having dealt with this issue before I wanted to write up a larger post to share with others since this is a moment we all face at some point.

At first, realize it’s a shock to witness one’s mortality. This means for some time, days or weeks (It varies as this moment literally can be a form of spiritual shock), you will be offbeat. Be patient with yourself until you find your grace (your own words and terms relative to the nature of death). You will be a bit sluggish and distracted by this process. So give yourself extra time to do things, don’t drive around as much and just generally slow down a touch to make sure you don’t trip yourself up by accident.

The second problem is: It isn’t easy to talk to others about this process. No one is truly an expert on this topic, and you will get lots of judgments. Heck, I have drowned and seen death enough to know I am far from being an expert on this. It’s a far more open-ended topic than people understand. Quite a few people will pull back when they are forced to come to terms with death before they are ready. So pick and choose who you do talk with some care. Share with friends who won’t worry over the state of your soul or judge the nature of death. Ironically it is my opinion that approaching death with judgment is exactly what creates the concept of hell in the first place. So facing death with judgment is far from a graceful path.

Be with friends who will instead insist on living and reinforcing spirit in this moment of shaking out your thoughts.

Refocus to Life

Life and DeathLet’s consider this for a second: Ironically, the first place people often go to when facing death is not themselves. Rather a person looks for larger answers, looking for a wider framework to plug into that allows them to see more. To even maybe peek around death.

I think the first place to look is not larger but rather back into life, back into your own eyes.

Death and Life are always connected. To witness death, to feel your mortality can reinforce and strengthen your life itself. The articles in the Personal Healing section would be the first place on this site you would want to review. These articles will help you rethink perspective, how to hold and find wholeness in yourself first. The personal healing articles are agnostic not about a larger system of faith. Instead, they are focused on helping you connect back into your essence.

This is why I picked the picture of a seed for this page. To help connect you back towards life, to show the angles of growth ahead for yourself. In potential, many options are still in front of you. This is a time to decide how to hold yourself and move with your life. So first strengthen yourself as you prepare to expand upon your life journey.

Remember, I stated earlier: Death is a far more open-ended topic than people understand. The first step in twisting it under control is to flip it around to be a reflection of life and how to improve your life.

So understand you are at a point of expansion and shifting of perspective. It’s the reinvention of yourself and lifestyle that is now on the table for you first to review.

Looking at Larger than Life Options.

Once you are in a good frame of mind, with positive actions to work upon, then you look into the larger than life frameworks so many people have created over time. To look at the Taoist view of passing on, or the Buddhist view of the cycles of life. There are countless religions, countless spiritual ideas to explore.

 

 

Meeting Mortality

I am a spiritual being taking a rest within the physical world.

What is Spirit?

Life always flows; motion is the key to understanding the first definition of spirit: To move with life.

The second definition of spirit is more complicated. Spirit is also a term used to represent nonphysical realities. What we label as physical, is the core reality we are rooted within. This core reality isn’t complete in itself. Surrounding and intermixing with us are other layers of perceptions and reality. These other nonphysical realities are what gets labeled as spiritual realities.

We have many maps to help us navigate our physical life. Upon meeting mortality, we discover these maps no longer work. At this point, people scramble to find spiritual maps to help them move smoothly ahead again. It turns out countless spiritual maps exist. Each spiritual map can give a person a different perspective and paths to move ahead upon.

I am a quiet explorer. Over the years, I have been poking about life. I have found many nooks and crannies in the physical and spiritual mix around us. To live gracefully is to acknowledge and flow with both physical and spiritual reality. Over the years I have pulled together six different spiritual maps to teach students. Each map has a unique strength and weakness. In other words, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one map to help hold oneself together. I am not going to review these maps in this article. Literal approaches to teaching a spiritual map often create erroneous perceptions. As a result, spiritual maps are a topic I only teach to students directly and verbally to include experience as part of the teaching and also to better fine-tune the language used within the teaching process.

While those facing mortality often scrambles for a map, finding an improved spiritual map isn’t the first place you should initially focus your energy upon.

Maps are about flow and information. With them, we can shape and modify our actions to be more graceful towards our exploration of what is outside of death. At this moment, you are not on the other side yet, and you are still firmly within life. This means: we still have to take our actions. We still can push into our life while moving against the boundary of mortality. This means reconsidering what we should ground against at this stage of life. In other words, the first step is grounding oneself. While a map might make a person feel grounded, it is a grounding based on something external. Facing mortality requires a grounding of oneself within… oneself > internally.

The first step in facing Mortality is not about more information, rather it’s about personal faith.

You are still alive at this moment; you are still exploring and pushing in being who you are. So have faith in yourself, have faith in your essence and how it will move from one form to the next.

Having a map will not make you stronger when facing mortality; having a map doesn’t truly strengthen your faith either. A Christian with a map of heaven in their back pocket will often be as scared to face death as a person with no maps.

The baseline for facing mortality is then personal faith. To be true to oneself for each breath you do take.

Facing Death

I have died, have done my share of stupid close to death maneuvers, seen death within others, have met mortality. So I do understand the moments before, during, and after meeting mortality and personal death.

What I can say is this: It’s a personal experience. The experience is a mirror that reveals all. When a person isn’t ready to look into that mirror: the reflection shuts them down.

Learning the lesson of nonjudgment and personal acceptance is a hard experience for many people. This may seem strange, but yes, often accepting oneself is a person’s greatest challenge. Mortality brings up that mirror of ourselves to look into honestly and finally accept who we are.

The funny thing is Death and Mortality are different things. I know. Once you do die, you accept everything. It isn’t even a question; it simply is what it is: transformation. Whether you are an atheist transforming form back into the universe, a Christian releasing the soul to merge to god or a Taoist / shaman releasing physical form to explore spiritual form, death for all represents transformation.

Mortality is before the transformation. Mortality is fear and resistance to changing form.

Facing Mortality

So to face mortality is to face yourself first.

Once you wrestle away your judgements you also peel away mortality.

 

Ask yourself what is it in life that truly matters to you. What connections and endeavors made you smile, boosted your heart, gave you joy. As silly as it sounds, the first step is finding acceptance with yourself and then others that matter to you.

Now you may ask, how do I do that when I have no time left? Time is the illusion. The moment of death is timeless. In death, you will be able to make peace with everything and anything. So instead of worrying about what is lacking, use the physical time you do have -> to live, to continue, to explore, to rest and shift your actions to be actions you can accept and be proud of as your actions.

This may seem simplistic, but it is a simple approach, and it does work. Mortality doesn’t matter upon accepting yourself and are living to your last breath as you. One extra fling, one extra word, one extra experience doesn’t counteract mortality. What counters mortality is knowing you lived as your complete being. We might enter the world crying and even at times exit it crying, but while in it, it is living to our essence that matters. Do so with style and flair. Releasing mortality > is accepting transitions exist, and our essence will flow into and out of the universe as water flowing from one place to the next. One moment in the cup of our body, the next as mist merging into the universe and flowing like water from one form to the next.

While in the cup of our body, enliven it with style and flair.

Starting Your Spiritual Map

Once you accept yourself, then it is time to continue with your exploration. Then it is the time to poke about all the spiritual maps humanity has obsessed over for as long as we have been conscious.

As you begin to go deeper into your spiritual growth, I would like to start you with this.

1) Words are models and reflections to the physical world.

Don’t get trapped in words, rather let the meaning flow; let your words become dynamic to capture better what you experience spiritually.

When people try to describe what could happen after death based on the reflection of only our physical experiences, it limits our approach in working with our mortality. Our words and stories are used to comfort us now. But understand they won’t translate directly fully into the experience up ahead of you. I could describe to you my death experience, but even as a poet I would be merely taking you to witness a fresh mountain spring within my words when in fact you will be releasing into an ocean.

So it is an amazing journey itself to explore the teachings that fill in what feels missing as you approach mortality. But hold those teachings and words lightly so they can be flexible enough to adapt to your nature.

2) Don’t try to force your words to be true.

A spiritual experience is never physical and doesn’t leave proof; rather, it leaves you with a good story that warms the heart and gives you the incentive to explore life more.

3) Don’t be afraid to share your stories.

Sharing helps uncover your words, your personal experience in a way that you can expand it later as you continue to explore spirit.

4) Open up to being ready to look into your essence and be kind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself as you explore. It isn’t always about pushing. Don’t forget to rest; It could be said that we are in the physical world to rest in between our larger steps through the spiritual worlds.

Personal Tao - Chapter 26 - Death

Chapter 26 – Death

What is death?
Mixing shades of black
Awash black tie-die
rolling of the bones
Emotions all in-tide-en-tangled
Down to?  Stopping – still:
Stopping to
Something described as sleep?

Passing back to…       black?
Inking the before time.
Time is calling

Soon to be soon to be myself
fully realized..
as fully into…
a calling back into oneself

Tired of acting
Awakening to self

It’s:
Some say heaven
Others say hell
Still others say nothingness

I have died
Know the truth
of nothing, more or less
So know
It’s no longer pretending
to be something
you are not.

Thoughts About Death

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: “You have to be very careful what you pretend to be, because you might wake up to find that’s what you have become.”

In life we pretend to be many things. It’s imagination in action as living.

Death is the time for us to return to our true nature, when a person no longer pretends to be anything other than themselves.

Death isn’t an ending of our paths. The moment of death is timeless and the turning point of consciousness; it’s when consciousness can touch the entirety of life. In touching our entire nature we can stop pretending and *sigh* into the Tao.

Paths of the Dead

Death is an experience which tempers the ego. Many myths have a person going into the land of the dead to learn. Even the Gods (Odin as example) would die in order to gain wisdom. I think it’s true; one does gain wisdom from death, whether from personal experience or through experiences dealing with death naturally as it occurs in our lives.

Experiencing death within one aspect of our nature, ripples across our entire being. So experiencing a spiritual death is as real as experiencing a physical death. I have briefly touched upon both, and will share a brief story of my path and observations.

It was death
I found the passport
Indeed custom’s rubber stamp
marked the departure
Death and memories
did co mingle
I found a snapshot
A black and white image
recorded the event
Leading to a discovery
No time passed,
no time existed
A day, a month,
A second, a year
were all the same

Time is the key

People think death is eternal
Instead, know
Death is moment-less, only life is eternal

Life mixes to: seconds, years, months, days.
As jumbled glimmering glances tumbling amidst jostling
Moving to a beat…
As a spring sun beats down
Warming life, my life, growing again as a weed

Amidst the seconds that rain

As time is felt
and time is life
and life is time.

When I was a child, I constantly tested how high my sneakers could bounce me. One day the sneakers might bounce me high enough to touch a cloud. The day I did touch the sky was without sneakers as an ocean wave slapped me backward into drowning. No one knew I was drowning that my body was quitting, my mind had switched over and everything was shutting down and, well, I was over the world; I could touch and hold Earth in my hands as I looked over the Earth in my moment of death. I didn’t know to be afraid; instead, I explored the nature of my life. In one moment, I touched my entirety.

Then my brother pulled me out, back into: Breath! Wonderful breath burst back into my lungs. As a child, I knew one moment I was dying, and in the next moment, I was living again. Both moments were wonderful! I was truly living in the moment. After recapturing my breath, after gaining bearings again, I went straight back to playing in the water and had a great day in the ocean surf. Years later, when I asked my brother about that day, he didn’t even realize he saved my life! He just pulled his silly brother out of the water when his little brother was under the water a little too long. He had no idea my spirit was packing up to go bounce around into another cycle of my life.

Ironic to find immortality
within death itself
The secret, the truth,
the path of immortality
Is simply to live in the moment
The secret of children
when we feel we can never die
Is the difference between
being an adult and a child
All simply being within
the moment and not outside.

The moment is eternity
The moment is life everlasting
Within the moment
a smile can be found
To enliven the spirit
To fire the blood
Back to pounding
Back into the beat
Of ever flowing life.

What happens when a boundary isn’t a real boundary?

Adults assume a death boundary exists based upon pretty strong circumstantial evidence: everyone dies, no one comes back (or very few). I believe this evidence produces a purely one-sided model of death. A view comparable to saying the world is flat, complete with waterfalls into space, based just by looking out to sea and seeing a “boundary” of a horizon. My experiences of living, of passing thru the transitional time of death has led me to conclude that my “expression of life” is instead constantly moving thru, circulating thru all the possibilities of what we call life. Death isn’t a boundary; it’s a transition back into other expressions of our self.

Now when I tell people about my experience of drowning: almost every adult responds, “Oh my god! Drowning is the most terrible death”. I lose my words as I personally know drowning and indeed dying, can be a most wonderful experience. How do you convey an experience to a person who is so in fear of any death? I want to ask “Do you worry about sleep when the consciousness magically fades into the black for a few hours?” I know the answer will be: “No: Because I wake up and remember myself”. The analogy will break down at this point, as dying, doesn’t bring you back the next day. Death brings one back into another expression of their own life, but it doesn’t normally round trip a person back into the same body the next day.

So where does this leave me in explanation?
What is my path concerning death?

We feel most alive when young
when every second
is an eternity.
So no surprise
people try to recapture life
as once before
bouncing childlike
between the moments.
….  Oh, it helps…..
But it isn’t the answer.
How can it be when:
we are not children anymore?

If you look to me for answers…
I can only admit
to not having any
Perhaps in time,
I will have some
Matters not
As I go outside,
lifting my face to the sky
feel sun, breeze, time:
rain down on me
a second at a time

Many paths exist; start with the core of life

Living in the moment is the simplest to attain just by being in the moment.

No guru or tricks are required: It takes only patient self-exploration.

Stories

I vividly remember an encounter with someone dying on the streets of New York City. What would your reaction be upon coming across a person facing death? I wrote this poem to talk about that challenge.

What would you do
in a meeting mixed with death,
an ever nameless man and yourself?

Would you jump away?
Would you reach out?
Would you pray?
Would you ignore?
Would you discover poetry?
I am a poet,
discovering poetry to be:
The end of one journey, and…
The start of the next
I am a man
Once giving passing rites
to another man
Now writing words
meant to help those living
So others can discover
We never die alone

No Words for Death

It’s important to know one’s faith towards death, especially after a midlife crisis.

It turns out the viewpoint one takes on death does have a big impact on the types of activities that would call to you.

Also, all too many people rush in the last second to discover religion. No one needs their soul saved from death. It’s a natural part of our nature. Fears creep in life, fears based upon outside judgments, outside views of trying to be something one is not. In these cases, it is the fear that needs addressing rather than finding an answer towards death. But that is an entirely different subject. The point here is coming to terms with death does have a major impact on how one interacts with their life.

The big problem about understanding death is this: all our words are based on life experiences. No word truly captures the experience of after death (and I know I have died). So this means everyone tries to use words based on life to describe death. The result is several hundred thousand variations of stories about death or even the afterlife.

None of these stories about death are truly 100% right, how can they be when the words don’t mesh up. So, in the end, the viewpoint on death requires a significant leap of faith and acceptance in how we hold that viewpoint. Once we have acceptance of death, then our actions follow to support the faith of our life.

Once finding a viewpoint of death that fits your essence, that viewpoint shifts how you do act and live to fulfill your life.

Taoists have a very colorful view on death, in fact, multiple variations of our viewpoint do exist. I merely teach death is the time we transition back into life fully.

As a result, my activities in life are always 100% based upon living fully, since I know upon death: I merely become one again with… “—— color in your answer between the lines —– “.

Death consists of lines and boundaries. One trap is the ego will try to color in a story for you. That’s the rub:  Ego, pushes a need to be greater than everything around us, busily coloring in the details of life. Distracting a person, from a more significant nature extending far beyond any man-made lines.  I never did color between the lines as a child.  I see no reason to start now.

You have to find your inner answer since if you think about it what we fill in answer to be will be a personal experience of what we call “death”. Once you come to acceptance of that last word or phrase, it changes how you act. It opens up life tremendously after you accept death is indeed part of who we are, one and for all the same: Yet unique to each of us.

Death’s Gate

By Casey 2008

No words cover the experience.
No time undoes the feeling.
In love having fullness.
Only to be left releasing:
A shovel, a handful of dirt and …
the hole left behind.

In love, in sharing: becoming angels.
Living itself: is the wing beat of being an angel.
Even when forced to face death
Coming down to find the ground.

No words fulfill this hole.
Not enough dirt hide the remains,
within the mind, memory, and visions
which as if alive
continue to play out.

In peace
I wish you peace
to say in oneness
Death is a reflection
Looking back from the depths
towards the light
where we all are one.

This is truth
The reason no words work
in that Death is the merging,
Becoming alight
with the Tao.

Death

Art By DerRiedl

A Closing Question About Death

I’ve been told I have 4-12 months to live. Treatment at this point will only put off the inevitable. I believe there comes great peace in death as in a good sleep. No wanting, no missing. I am a Taoist. It’s what makes sense to me. I don’t believe in judgment. But, I try to live a life of fun and kindness. Any thoughts on my views?

Respect your views; they’re the reflection of your essence, your truths.

As you go further, your views will likewise expand towards new insights.

You get the choice in how you hold the process. All too many let fear make that choice for them. So, minimize fear, knowing fear undercuts and twists your views to be about only the negative aspects of your challenge.

You can flip fear and even turn suffering around to focus your perceptions and embrace life even more beautifully. You can make the process, to be about life, like a drill going deeper into a spiritual exploration of life. This will allow you to work towards what you enjoy and find meaning in these profound steps ahead.

Yes, it will be a hard journey. Some days you will break down to cry, you might feel desperate. Ironically at the threshold, you will also discover peace. So don’t let any intermediate desperation take away the deeper more powerful part of the journey: holding your personal truths of life.

While a hard journey, the compression of reality between life and death actually acts like a telescope to see the interweaving connections and paths of life also. Again it’s a personal choice on how to use this powerful moment of life. It isn’t about right or wrong; it’s about your choices on how to connect to everything: yourself and universe both.

So don’t lose any strength or steam now relative to what anyone says or moments of hesitancy you may feel — peace and strength in this journey. Never stop living, even in the last breath: you are still living.

Art by Elentori

Art by Elentori

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So the unknown will never trip you with fear.

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jean bowman

I Must agree, I ‘ve done Hospice,privately. Until recently, I was one of the caregivers for my father,very recently my husband. Being a very Spiritual person, I have attempted to Help in countless ways, I have been a Healer since Birth, I feel and tried aimlessly to be of assistance,sometimes when not wanted, needed and or appreciated. Un aware at times I was no help. No words can ease the pain, comfort the shaken Soul, processing and working through the emotions, many levels, takes time. We find strength where we thought none was left. We find hope and Faith when… Read more »

Thea Lander

Lovely lovely poem. Thanks. Thea

[…] doing some research on Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos and I bookmarked a website that spoke of “footprints” and the passing of a loved one.  The author writes, “the Mexican definition of soul, is the footprint we leave behind for […]

@Faith: I think your ideas are fine, and as you explore life, continue to explore what death is in relationship to your own life. Death is outside of life. An illusion of living itself. We label something as dead, when we as living person cannot connect to it anymore. But in life, within life, we are eternal. And outside life, we are merely something else, not recognizable as the other self we label with names… but from the right angle, of being one to the larger universe again can reconnect to that which we think gone. So ironically once you… Read more »

@Sue: There isn’t a single perfect answer to this. Rather this requires a combination of smaller answers and lessons embraced, that reveals how to best hold true to the spirit of the one loved. Its more than acceptance, it’s a mixture of feelings you are sorting out: to merge into a larger free flowing answer I actual would suggest a teaching session with me over skype. The answer you seek is in relationship to your heart and how you personally need to hold these smaller answers that merge clarity and solace together. The combination of answers required, shifts for each… Read more »

sue

hi I have only recently discovered this site so it’s perhaps I’m jumping the gun a wee bit but I am searching for solace today – the loss of someone very beloved. Very simply put, how do i know if i’m happy if i have never known sorrow? The deeper my sadness, the greater my joy. It is after all a world of opposites isn’t it?

Jose Villanueva

Hi Sue I would try to answer your question by stating the “law of correspondence” which deals with the relative relationship of things. Simply put, Sorrow and Happiness are on the same level but on opposite ends. You can feel happy but you can never experience a higher degree of happiness until you have felt the deepest sorrow.

'stranger'

I really don’t think ‘positive and ‘negative’ are more than illusions … sadness is more important than mirth because it is only sadness that finally stops mankind being unloving to mankind, long after we destroyed ourselves and our earth through unlovingness of every kind in almost all [Jesus offers a figure of 144,000 of over 12 billion who stop being unloving in this life] … we ought to be more honest and more sad and admit that it is our unloving ways that shorten the life of those we love, but in fact our spirit demands we love everyone and… Read more »

Robin: I am not sure if I would use attachment as the term here.

I see it truly in terms of potentials. Negative potentials have to be taken a bit more seriously as negative potential diminish us. And some extra work is usually required to turn around a negative potential to something positive.

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