Meditation (Spirituality): A Meditation On Death
A Meditation On Death
Acrid smoke wafts in over the parkland from an unknown fire. Upstream, a dog standing in the water barks loudly for fifteen minutes, goaded by its owner. Despite these things and feeling burdened by sorrow (both personal and collective, which are ultimately the same thing), meditation descends as the sun's rays ascend the tops of the oaks.
Though a rare summer storm recently brought a bit of rejuvenation to the parched land, California's Central Valley is again as dry as dust. One can almost feel the thirst of the land as it waits for winter and the life-giving rains. Now, as fall approaches, the sun sets earlier, the nights grow cooler, and the days are more mild.
This morning in the country, a hot wind blew across the parched fields of thistle and brown grass that surround the town. Because of the wind, the hills were exceptionally clear for late summer. Even more surprisingly, Little Chico Creek, which forms the present boundary of the expanding town, still flows. It's almost a trickle, but normally it is bone dry by late July.
The sky is cloudless and breathtakingly blue. It is late morning, and I sit in the last hour of shade provided by a great sycamore on the banks of the creek. I ask a question of the universe, and then surrender to it.
At that instant a strikingly white egret appears, seemingly out of nowhere. It has a huge wingspan, and flies low over the spreading limbs of the sycamore. The sunlight on its feathers makes it appear translucent, and the contrast of pure whiteness against the azure sky is so beautiful that it is a shock to my entire system.
I instantly realize that I have been blessed by a rare moment of incomprehensible beauty and total purity. I hope that when I take my last breath I have the clarity and peace to see, in my heart, that white egret against the cobalt sky, soaring above the protective foliage of the sycamore tree.
The greatest gift of meditation is to transcend, if only for a few moments, the confines of time. And when the noise of the mind spontaneously ceases in attention, one contacts, without fear, the living fact of death.
There is no morbidity or death wish in this awareness. On the contrary, one is never so close to life as when one emotionally contacts the utter finality and infinite fecundity of death.
Death is the ground from which all life arises and to which it falls. Death is that eternal source from which our minds and hearts and souls have emerged, and to which they will return.
Death is the stream flowing by at your feet. Let it carry your thoughts away like the dead leaves of experience that they are. Touch the essence of death, even for a moment, and one is renewed and set right. A revolution in consciousness begins with the death of content consciousness.
Most people fear death as the end of the self. But I dread the self's continuation, for then one has to come back, since one has not learned how to die.
In contacting, without fear, the all-encompassing actuality of death, one drinks from the source of life, and is renewed at the deepest level. Letting go of everything, one momentarily makes the same journey we all inevitably make at the end of our lives.
Extinguishing the 'me and mine' in the art and act of meditation, the continuity of experience ceases, as it does at death. Then one merges with the cosmic awareness that has always been and will always be. Perhaps that is immortality.