“Who Dies?”

Tony's picture 2 from Peggy

Themes and articles on death and dying are vogue these days. I noticed in the current issue of the SUN magazine a number of articles on the subject. Featured in this month’s issue on the “Dog-Eared Page” is a well-written article on death and dying.  (I always turn to the “Dog-Eared Page” first when a new issue arrives because the articles featured there are usually short and timely.) In fact, death and dying seems to be the theme of a couple of articles. “Who Dies?” is the title of this article, written in a meditative tone by Stephen and Ondrea Levine and focusing on the eternal question “Who am I?” 

We think we are our thoughts. We call our thoughts “I.” In letting go of thought, we go beyond ourselves, beyond who we imagine we are. Behind the restless movement of the mind is the stillness of being, the stillness that has no name, no reputation, nothing to protect. It is the natural mind.

I’ll return to this article shortly. But first I would like to connect with the Event of the day as we prepare to celebrate Easter this coming weekend.

EASTER IS ABOUT RESURRECTION, NOT DEATH

It certainly was for me eleven years ago when, on Easter Sunday, April 20th, 2003, I was given a new lease on life with open-heart surgery in Ft. Collins, Colorado, for which I am profoundly grateful to God and to the wonderful surgeon who held my heart in his healing hands that blessed day of personal resurrection. Life is good. It also has purpose for our health crises. For me, that purpose has revealed itself in many wonderful and fulfilling ways over the past decade.

This is “Holy Week” and tomorrow is “Good Friday” when Christians the world over pause to reflect on the crucifixion and death of their “Lord and Savior,” followed in three days by the celebration of his resurrection from the dead. Mozart’s Requem in D minor is slated for performance at our local University Methodist Church.  A local newspaper’s editor touts it as his “top choices of don’t-miss-it entertainment” (italic emphasis mine)“Make Good Friday great with Mozart,” he highlights in his plug for the event.  The church choir director describes the masterpiece as “…grand, complex, delicate at times. There are moments of fury and power. The ‘dies irae,’ which is the day of wrath, about the judgment day, is full of brass and timpani.”  Singers in the community flock to sing in the event and people will fill the church pews tomorrow to revel in the ecstatic musical inspiration—a few perhaps to ponder the meaning of life and death and to entertain once again the deeply embedded belief in a dreaded “Judgment Day” when the wrath of God is supposed to come down upon the heads of all sinners, which most who come to hear the performance are convinced they are.

SO ARISE AND SHINE 

We are so entertained by the mystery of life and death—and rightly we should be as, by and large, we do not seem to have a clue as to what either one of them is all about. The Lord of Love came here to show us how to live and how to face death victoriously and move on to greater things beyond death’s door—and to give us the “good news” that there is a larger context to our existence in his Father’s house of many mansions.  Easter gives us an opportunity each year to arise and shine our light of love into the world and to remember to shine our light every day.

MODERN MEDICINE SPOILS OUR ENTERTAINMENT

The SUN carries two other articles on death and dying.  One is an interview with journalist Katy Butler entitled “The Long Goodbye — Katy Butler On How Modern Medicine Decreases Our Chance Of A Good Death.” The title speaks for itself. In her own article later on in the issue, “The Art of Dying,” Katy tells how her father’s life was prolonged with a pacemaker only to make him live long enough for him to experience the painful miss-management of the last days of his ageing and degenerating body by medical science.  You can read the entire interview at the link above.

Reading her story, I am reminded of my own mother’s medically-induced longevity with a pacemaker that only staved off an otherwise natural and peaceful death with her children around her bed, only to see her ageing body used for further profiteering on the backs of taxpayers through the convenience of Medicare and Medicaid.  

Is my judgmental cynicism here unwarranted? Perhaps so, but must we insist upon doing things just because we can . . . and because it’s “covered by Medicare?” Our modern technology has turned us into gods “knowing good and evil” as the serpent promised Adam and Eve in the story in Genesis.  Yet, we do “surely die” in the end, as we were duly warned we would. In an ironic way, death was given to us more as a blessing than a curse: a mechanism of release from our self-made prisons. 

DEATH IS A RITE OF PASSAGE

Death, like birth, can be celebrated as the rite of passage it is from this world back into the realms of light from which we all came on our day of incarnation.  It can be another birthday, which is how I imagine our departed friends and family, along with the angels in heaven, celebrate it. Thankfully, we now have hospice care to provide peaceful and sacred space for our last days and for our transition to the other side of the veil.  But let me return to the SUN’s feature article.

“THERE IS NO PERSON IN THERE; JUST A PROCESS”

I love where Stephen and Ondrea Levine take their meditation in the end. You’ll want to read the article in its entirety on page 2 of this post.   

. . .There is no place we can solidly plant our feet and say, “This is who I am.” It is a constantly changing flow in which, moment to moment, who we think we are is born and dies. All that we would project ourselves as being is seen as transient and essentially empty of any abiding entity. There is no person in there; there is just process. Who we think we are is just another bubble in the stream. And the awareness that illuminates this process is seen for the light it is. We begin to give up identification with the mind as “I” and become the pure light of awareness, the namelessness of being.

The body dies; the mind is constantly changing. But somehow, behind it all, there is a presence, called by some “the deathless,” that is unchanging, that simply is as it is.

To become fully born is to touch this deathlessness: to experience, even for a moment, the spaciousness that goes beyond birth and death; to emerge into a world of paradox and mystery with no weapons but awareness and love .•

For me this article describes the human mind’s search for its identity and meaning. In truth, the mind has no identity or meaning of its own. It has meaning only as it is connected, activated and allowed to be used wisely by its Creator. Otherwise it is self-activated by self-centered purposes and prides itself of having an “ego” (which is Latin for “I am) that depends on bolstering compliments for its sense of worth.  The human ego is the self-active human mind. That dies, thank God— if only we would let it pass away peacefully and naturally.  But, alas, it has invented a way to stave off its demise through modern medical technology.  To what end? I ask.

We’ve made such a complicated mess of our life and death on Earth. Life is simple, as is death.  We come. We live. We ascend to return and live again in this beautiful world—or in other even more beautiful worlds.  In our Father’s house there are surely many mansions, and our souls are not limited to this one.  

In my Healing Tones blog I am considering the processes of resurrection and ascension.  Join me there for inspiring exploration of  things that must be hereafter.  Until my next post,

Here’s to your health and a happy death.

Anthony Palombo, D.C

Sources: THE SUN magazine,  April, 2014, issue 460. Visit them online at http://thesunmagazine.org. The feature article quoted herein is  “Excerpted from Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying by Stephen and Ondrea Levine, copyright © 1982 by Stephen Levine. Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.”

About the authors: STEPHEN AND ONDREA LEVINE live in the mountains of northern New Mexico. For more than thirty years they counseled the sick and dying and their loved ones through Conscious Living/Conscious Dying workshops, which used guided meditation combined with the teachings of Buddhism and other wisdom traditions. They have written several books together, including Who Dies?Embracing the Beloved, and A Year to Live.  

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Dying Healthfully

Death as Part of the Healing Process

Tony Pics for SA BookWe all come to this final moment in our lives.  Death, like taxes, is inevitable.  It’s a part of life. . .for now anyway.  Legends and Biblical texts tell of a time when death was not in the picture of  life on earth.   My life’s mission has been dedicated to the return to such a reality for all humanity, even if it’s just to hold it in my heart as a possibility, even as inevitable as death is now.

A friend of ours, and of many the world around, John Cruickshank, made his transition from this earthly plane yesterday evening.  It was a peaceful passing, what one could describe as  a “healthy death.”  Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it?  Death, after all, is the complete absence of life, so how can it be healthy?  Or is death the complete absence of life?

I prefer the word “transition” we seem to be using more often these days, because, in reality, death is a movement from one level of being to another.  Birth, in that sense, is also a transition, one that we celebrate with much joy, as we are doing this afternoon at our grandson’s birthday party here in Ashland, Oregon.  Jonahven came to us through his mother Holly Adams and his father, our son John, and what a gift they are to each other.  Jonahven came from heaven into the earth, transcended the invisible realm of spirit to incarnate in the visible realm of form.  John Cruickshank transcended the visible world of form to return to his origin in the invisible world of a higher level of form.  There is form at every level appropriate to each level. Should not both transitions be celebrated with equal wonder and joy?!

Life has its irony.  We celebrate the joy of a child’s birth today and yesterday we celebrated the death of a friend with joy and thanksgiving for his full life of service.  John was truly a server to all he encountered in his earthly journey;  a selfless friend.   Notwithstanding an aggressive brain tumor, John’s death was a healthy one.  He was at peace in his heart, his earthly journey fulfilled and complete.  He died as he lived, sharing his life with others.   We who are left behind surely feel a loss.  He will be missed.  And to process that loss we have the grieving process.  If we were aware of the other levels of being, what Jesus referred to as the “many mansions” in the Father’s House, perhaps we would not have cause to grieve the passing of form and could see it as a birthing process into another level of life experience.  Life, after all, is eternal . . . is it not?

Speaking of dying as we live, one of John’s friends recently shared a quote that describes how John lived and died:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘What a ride!'”

John slid into Home plate after running all the bases.  He was only fifty-eight, so he must have hit a home run early in life, because I don’t think he sat on any of the bases.  He was always on the move helping his fellow-man, and changing the world as he went from one ingenious invention to another innovative project.  His last project was as part of team who created a machine called Straw-Jet that turns agricultural residue, such as rice and wheat straw, into building materials,  specifically, but not exclusively, targeting third-world countries.  His most notable invention, however, is the “Sunny-John” which embodies a technology for recycling human waste into manure.  His love was permaculture and he left several such gardens behind him during his journey. He was exceedingly well-gifted with a “green thumb” and knew innately how plants belonged together symbiotically (in close beneficial relationships).  That was his forte and legacy for which he will long be remembered by many.

The ultimate “cure” of disease

Getting back to our blog theme . . . historically, death has been relegated to the morbid and macabre, an event to be feared and staved off for as long as possible.  Certainly as something unhealthy.  We’ve even invented and dedicated an entire industry to keeping death away from our door as long as possible . . . and, for the rich and well-insured, at whatever the cost . . . and cost it does, plenty these days . . . sometimes the equivalent of an arm and a leg, like a donor’s heart or kidney.   That said, I am thankful, as I’m sure our friend was, for the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs Medicine  provides that helps make the dying process physically, mentally and emotionally bearable and comfortable.  Comfort is a good thing.  We all need that in times of distress, and especially in terminal illness and the dying process.  It’s what we seem to do best as humans.

But what is death, actually (if you will allow me to muse and ponder a bit)?   A colleague once described death as “part of the healing process” and a final resolution and “cure” of disease.  And so it may well be when you stop to think about it.  Tumors stop growing when there is no more life from which to steal sustainable energy.  Bacteria, of course, remain.  But, then, bacteria are natural and essential to all life processes, both integrative and disintegrative.  Mother Earth can put them to good use without Herself becoming infected.  Mothers are natural healers.

Tumors, on the other hand, are thieves . . . unnatural growths outside the creative design of life for flesh.   I’ve seen them described as embryonic masses growing outside of a womb, an unwelcome guest in our house of being.  Death of the host terminates their occupancy.   Of course there are certainly other “cures” and resolutions to the diseased state where the host survives the crisis . . . for a season anyway, until another crisis comes along that threatens to resolve itself through death.   Either way, the healing process prevails.  Life goes on at yet other levels and dimensions.

To make whole

Healing means to make whole that which was previously fragmented, broken, disconnected or dismembered, and therefore dysfunctional.   Healing is a re-membering process whereby what belongs together is allowed to be together – much like the plants and trees in Cruickshank’s permaculture gardens –  as a whole entity that’s an integral and essential part of a larger Whole.   Some call it “God” or the “Great Spirit.”  By whatever name called, the larger Whole is what we each are a part of naturally and whatever would keep us from playing our destined roles in that Whole is inevitably and naturally re-solved . . . returned to a solvent state, such as earth and water, where it can once again participate in creation.   From “dust to dust,” as Christians are reminded with ashes on their foreheads every year.   But the spirit returns to a liberated and functional role as part of the greater Whole; returns to God who created it and maintains its existence.

In this light, death can be seen and embraced by us as part of the healing process . . . and the word itself, like the dying process, could stand to be cleared of its karma and given a noble place in our culture and vocabulary, as well as in our lives.  Death, then, looses its sting as it is healthfully and joyously embraced.  Hospice is a promising step in that direction.

While sitting with our friend at his deathbed, I was moved to talk about his final step into the unknown and how he was about to have all his questions about death and what’s beyond answered.  As awkward as it was at first to even breech the delicate subject, especially with one who was not able to communicate verbally his desire to go there, I felt a certain ease and welcome energy coming from him.   Afterwards, I thought how appropriate it could be to engage the dying, while they are yet able to do so, in a conversation around the theme of preparation for death as a rite of passage.  A conversation that would, first of all, acknowledge and connect with the angel incarnate who is experiencing, even orchestrating, the process of transition, and one that would evoke the conscious participation of the angel who is about to shed the dis-eased earthly form and take on a lighter one, one that will give the angel freedom to move about with ease.  Perhaps using music or the sacred sound of quartz crystal or Tibetan bowls accompanied by toning or chant that would help create ritual space for the generation of buoyant substance for a robust send off.  Or even group song and dance to celebrate the momentous event of final passage and transition.   While such ritual is being used in indigenous as well as some contemporary settings, I would welcome seeing more of this become part of our way of doing things here in the West and throughout the modern world.

And who knows but what this may well open the way for an unveiling of the mystery of death itself and ultimately eliminate its necessity?!  We would simply ascend, taking our bodies with us to a higher vibratory level, leaving nothing behind to be recycled.   I envision a ritual space created specifically for this purpose, just as I envision the creation of such a crucible for facilitating incarnation, a vibrational vesica pices (womb) for the birth of new form.  It’s all in the Divine Design for the process of transmutation and transition from one level to another.  We can agree to let it be so and it will come about.  It’s where we are headed in the new cosmic cycle underway, a theme I expand on in Sacred Anatomy – Where Spirit and Flesh Dance in the Fire of Creation. We are in for a new ride on this earth plane and it’s best to let go of the old and let go to the new.

Here’s to your ride!

Anthony Palombo, DC

Write me at  tpal70@gmail.com

Visit my second blog at attunementwithsacredsound.wordpress.com .

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