Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Death/My Life


                                                 Surrender/The Emergence and the Departure

     This last weekend, I attended a consideration on the Death process in the Way of the Heart. The speaker was a long time practitioner of  Adidam, a way of life  founded by the spiritual master Adi Da Samaraj. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I felt enlivened (ironically perhaps) by this consideration of human mortality, and while not free of the fear of my mortality, at least moved to make my death an easier transition, not only for me, but for my family.

     For many of us when we  get into our fifties, things start to fall apart. I've started to notice that I'm not at all where I expected to be at this point in my life, and the need to prioritize has become very key to my day-to-day existence. I have to take better care of my body and mind. I can't waste as much time on negativity, or trivial pursuits, without suffering the consequences. My body needs more rest, and my mind needs more refreshment. My heart needs to feel openness.

     Last year, I was rushed to the emergency room by my son-in-law with extreme gastrointestinal distress. I had to carry a basin around with me, because I couldn't stop throwing up. Turns out my "huge-ass gallstone" (as one doctor referred to a few years before hand) had created acute pancreatitis. Surgery was required, and on top of that, I managed to catch a viral form of colitis that manifested after the surgery. A surgery that should have been an hour was four. A hospital stay that should have been a couple of days, turned into almost a couple of weeks. I had no idea, that the body could suffer so much, and still not die. My fear of death started to take on enormous proportions, just as my gallstone had. I felt defenseless; powerless to control my situation. Being in the "sterile" hospital environment is a kind of sensory deprivation. While there were some wonderful people who were helping me along, I could not seem to control the wild mind that was terrorizing me, and my body could not be consoled. I somehow developed an allergy to the pain medications, and while they helped with the pain, they didn't help with my growing foulness of spirit. I was quarantined for the last week of my stay, and I began to panic. They would not make my release easy until my tests clear that I was free of the colitis, but I felt like I was dying of shock. I had to get released. I wanted to feel the fresh air on my skin again.  I almost snuck out one night, but being so weak, I couldn't really do it on my own, and in all good conscience, I didn't want to expose anyone to the virus I'd been exposed to.

     Previously, I had maintained a good attitude during the first week of my stay. Getting bodywork, walking to keep my strength up, and even visiting other patients to cheer them up, but the quarantine and the painful colitis on top of the surgery,  was more than I was equipped to deal with. Finally, my test came back clear of this particular contagious inflammatory illness. I was released from the hospital with a warning that this didn't mean it was gone, but still it was enough to send me on my way. My surgeon joked that I had experienced enough problems for two people during my stay.

     The day I was released, it just so happened to coincide with a time that my family couldn't pick me up. A friend came, and helped me gather my things. The nurse wheeled me down to the front of the hospital. It had just rained. It was an early spring day, the sun was now shining, and I sat in front of tree full of pink blossoms still wet with the rain,from the previous day. Each blossom reflected the light like small magenta crystals. The fragrant smell of earth caressed me. I sat there and wept uncontrollably. My friend asked why I was so sad. I simply said, " I didn't think I'd see this again." It was true enough, but really the truth lie more with the fact that was that I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I saw that this was the tree of life before me and my connection to life's inherent divinity was always present. It was I who had abandoned "God." My friend was his usually abrupt self, but he was patient enough and kind, but still I felt very aware of how different our perceptions of the reality around us was. I felt raw - exposed and sat gently unto myself on the ride home.

     It is only in laying this story out today that I realize the profound gift of that moment. I was given the gift of insight into my relationship into life and death. The tree before me reached to the "Bright", and the roots to the underworld of existence. The "Bright" is a term used in the writings of Adi Da Samaraj to describe complete spiritual enlightenment. The paradox of human existence branched, literally and figuratively out before me. Also, I was able to see that even the suffering, although unbearable at times, was a necessary experience for me at that time. It was necessary because it showed me where I was limited, and that I still had a lot of work to do to transcend my fear.

     In exploring this experience, I see that I must give myself to preparing for this process much like I prepared for the birth of my children. Searching out a midwife, reading books that helped me prepare, and giving time to others to help them in this process of preparation. As the old adage says: "No one gets out of here alive.

     A few weeks ago, I started making a series of collages. I had photographed myself, with the appearance of death. It wasn't my intention to be morose, but to bring light into that inevitable experience. Also, the "me" who "I" think to be is no more than an abstraction really. I can no more really know what "I" am in total than an ant can describe it's work ethic. It exists for the whole of its clan. We humans want to live under the pretense of being separated individuated egos as if there is some ultimate fulfillment that will immortalize us. For the most part we want to be like rock stars famous for our contributions. The truth of it is, perhaps our contributions may be more humble. Even those of us have more monumental contributions, face the unknown realities that death brings. I won't pretend to have mastered any great yogic skills that will lift me out of the painful aspects of this process, but it is my heartfelt wish to turn to my greatest help:

"Death is a necessary, purposeful, and ultimately benign psycho-physical process. It is similar to the process of giving birth, except that it happens to both males and females. You must study the death process bodily and through observing others. Above all, tension and fear must be relaxed during the death process (as it must be by a woman during childbirth). You must relax and release, as when going to sleep, in a feeling of deep trust, love and surrender to the Divine Reality on Which the process depends."
                                                                         EASY DEATH / Adi Da Samaraj

      By no means, is my exploration here, a kind of suicidal ideation. It is more a way of holding my life closer. By admitting my death, I can embrace my life as is.  As they say in 12 step programs; "Gratitude is the attitude."

     I'm including another collage here that I initially entitled "Forest Goddess". I realize now that my unconscious was pointing me to that experience outside the hospital where I briefly looked inside the door of the Divine Reality, The Tree of Life.

                                                           The Divine Reality/The Tree of Life



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