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Death and the Deathless #3


Whatever this infinite vastness is, it doesn’t begin or end. It is timeless, ever-present (always here-now) and ever-changing (never the same way twice). I don’t fear death, but not because I believe that “Joan” will reincarnate or go to heaven. I regard those as primitive expressions of our deep intuition of the unbroken wholeness that is unborn and undying. Beliefs in the afterlife or reincarnation "for me" still cling to the illusion that I am a solid, persisting, continuous "self," but can any such entity actually be found?

This body is changing, "my" thoughts, sensations, memories, and so on are all changing. I can't find any actual boundary where "inside me" turns into "outside me." So, what exactly is going to reincarnate? Beliefs in "the after-life for me" all serve as security blankets designed to assuage the fear of death, which is often said to be the mother of all fears, for it is the end of "me." But what is this "me"? Every night, we fall happily into deep sleep, where no trace of experiencing and no sense of awareness or presence or "me" remains.

We can’t deny death. When someone we love dies, they are gone. It’s a very undeniable ending. We can’t phone them up anymore, or see their smile, or hold them in our arms. There is no denying the reality of the loss. And yet, they are alive in our hearts, in our memory, in our thoughts, perhaps in our genetic material, and actually, like the ever-expanding ripples in a pond, they are alive in (and as) the whole universe. Whenever anyone I love has died, I have sensed that they are everywhere—not as a ghost or a floating spirit, and not like Jesus rising from the dead—but as the afternoon breeze, the clouds changing shape in the sky, the birdsong, the delicious sounds of rain...and above all, as this unbound awaring presence being and beholding it all. This is the True Beloved that we see and love in "the other," our own True Self, the undivided One Life that is manifesting or expressing itself as infinite forms. People I have loved who have died are gone, yet they are with me, for we were never actually two.

Death is at once an absolute boundary from which there is no return, and at the same time, it is no boundary at all. That may sound like mystical nonsense, but it’s a palpable reality that is actually right here as our direct experience of how reality is. It’s simply that this living actuality is often overlooked in favor of the conceptual maps that we’ve learned to trust and rely on instead. We've learned to think and imagine separation, persisting forms, a dualistic world that is divided into subject and object, self and other. Hypnotized by this illusion, we live in fear of sailing off the edge of the flat earth into the dreaded imaginary void in which "I" will no longer exist, and we comfort ourselves with fairytales of heaven and reincarnation. But we don’t need the fairytales. The reality is so much more elegant and so much simpler!

-- copyright Joan Tollifson 2018 --

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