When Dad died from 'that lung cancer' it had a massive impact on my relationship with death which resulted in me asking the following question:
'If I only had 104 days left to live how would I live my life?
I decided to find out and embarked on an epic 104 day journey into unfamiliar territory. This required copious amounts of courage, and combined support from both friends and family. Ell, Brooke, Julia, Cecilia - Thankyou so much - for all your kind words and support - I don't think I could have done it without you.
An Experiment In Conscious Dying challenged my thinking beyond anything I had previously encountered.( probably because I had successfully surrounded myself with enough assorted paraphernalia to avoid ever having to face the the inevitable - my death) In the beginning, the path seemed dark, twisty and wide as I clung desperately to the sides of familiarity. However, as the experiment unfolded I began to trust the process, and instead of seeking specialness in the little things outside of me, I gave myself permission to sit quietly in the emptiness and gradually the path grew light, straight and narrow revealing a life filled with passion, excitement and possibility.
On the afternoon of the final day of the experiment I sat quietly on a solitary rock on Shoreham beach. With death a mere pebbles throw away my heart was suprisingly filled with gratitude. I sipped green tea from Dad's old thermos flask weeping at the profound beauty of it all; the peaceful sound of the big sea ebbing and flowing, the seagulls chaotically diving headfirst into the water, the sun setting on the distant horizon. I could sense the edges of my heart melting. Today was definately a good day to die.
As midnight approached Ell and me looked into each others eyes one last time, and gave thanks for our time together and the love we had shared. Saying goodbye to Ell was profoundly moving. I imagined what it may have been like for Dad as he said his final goodbye to Mum. Then, I took one final look around the room before closing my eyes and surrendering to the Great Heart. Ell kept me company for awhile as she guided me through the last breath meditation. And when the moment came for me to take the last breath, my arms naturally fell to my sides and I effortlessly followed the light.
And from the vanishing point on the most distant horizon, watch as something slowly approaches. It is the first breath of life. And with that breath arrives a new body. Notice in the desires that arise as that new incarnation approaches the dimming of the light that precedes the point of forgetfulness. Attempt to stay alert through the process of re-entry. Each breath the first. Each breath completely new. Taking birth once again. Born back into a body to examine what was born. And what never dies. Taking birth for the benefit of all sentient beings. The light body reinhabiting a heavy body. Renaimating life and the possiblity of an awareness so clear it obviates any potential for the kind of stillbirth that lasts a lifetime. Born to serve and explore. To deepen the mercy of whatever world we find ourselves in. Each breath so precious, allowing the light body to remain a moment more within its earthen vessel. Taking birth into this world to discover the healing we have so long sought. And to sing the song we have been learning since we sat beneath the bo tree or hung from the cross or looked into the eyes of our dying child. No one said it would be easy, only fruitful. Each breath the first, the last, the only breath available, to carry us beyond our forgetfulness into the scintillanting center of the living truth. - Stephen Levine
It's been a few days since the experiment ended and the path once again appears dark, twisty and wide. I have awkwardly returned to earth feeling self conscious and paranoid - nailed to a cross of my own making. The ego tells me that uncertainty is the enemy and spends it's days looking for love in all the wrong places - for bigger and better ways to stay in control. I have been scurrying around looking for scraps of safety outside of myself: downloading music; excessive eating; weight training and masturbating - acceptable escape routes to help numb the pain. Perhaps, this is the point of forgetfulness that Stephen Levine speaks about in his book A Year To Live.
On a positive note...
If there is anything An Experiment In Conscious Dying taught me it is this; there is no-thing comfortable about living half a life. God did not make a mistake when he created me.
It's perfectly safe to let go and listen to the whispers, trusting that I am supported unconditionally by the love of God.