I am inspired to write about something not talked about every day. For the past few months I have had the subject of aging on my mind. Aging and death are both subjects are very taboo in this culture. We are doing everything possible to stall the aging process. Between cosmetic surgery, the latest under eye cream, that new fad diet, sports car, or whatever it is that inevitably fills us up for that day but leaves us feeling empty and full of fear yet again. We grow older every day, and we are all going to do it someday, die.
About 4 years ago, on Thanksgiving, I was given the gift of looking at this with open eyes and an understanding started to unfold for the very first time. Only a few months after I got sober from drugs and alcohol, a good friend of mine, overdosed on heroine after being clean for over 5 years. I couldn’t believe it, I was devastated. He was so intelligent, handsome, kind… how could this happen? I remember finding out on Thanksgiving. He died alone, in his apartment, from a heart attack. He had just moved in, so his apartment was bare except for his mattress and some clothes, and pieces of paper he had scribbled on with bible verses. Can I share one with you…?
(4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There won’t be death anymore. There won’t be any grief, crying, or pain, because the first things have disappeared.” (5) The one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!” He said, “Write this: ‘These words are trustworthy and true.'”
John the Apostle, Revelation 21:4-5
I remember that they read this at his viewing, and I broke out into tears, because I now knew that he knew he was going to die. I do not think he planned it this way, but I do believe that when it is our time to go, whether it is of natural causes or not, it is time. However, when he died, at the age of 32, I was heartbroken. In the past, I thought of death as something that happened. When He died, it made it more real. He was a mirror into my own youth, and into the reality that it could happen at any time. I would miss Him. I started to ask questions to the unknown and to explore emotions that until now were uncharted territory. “This wasn’t fair, was it? Why does this have to happen? I am angry, I am sad, I feel him as if he were here. When I pass away some day, will we be brought back together? I know no matter how many times I look at his pictures and call his number he will never pick up, and I will never hear or see him in this physical form again. Would I? It all seemed so sad.
…While I was in the initial shock of the news on Thanksgiving, I remember sitting in a friend’s house who was keeping me company while I mourned… They went to shower and get ready. I remember plopping down on a wooden chair that I had pulled out from the kitchen table. I began to cry again, tears rolled down my face, but I did not let out a sound. As I sit there, I kept thinking of his beautiful smile, and all of the wonderful moments we spent together, and it made me cry even more. Then something a bit surreal and magical happened. As I sit there in a pool of my own tears, I started feel the energy shift inside of me and all around me, tingles rose up my spine and I couldn’t help but smile, and as I open my eyes I could almost hear him say, “I am fine, I love you,” and as I turn my head, there on the refrigerator were alphabet magnets on the refrigerator I sat next to, that read, “I will always love you.” Even though I knew that this must have been my friend’s Daughter writing her Father a message, I also Knew, in the Depths of My Soul, that this was His message for me as well. In that moment, call me whatever you want to, I Knew, that this was not the end for those who live in the physical. He was fine. There was life after death, or whatever you want to call it. I know now that was my friend’s gift to me. From his death, I gained a true Soul awareness of Eternity. I was so grateful for this. In that moment, everything became so clear, I was no longer feeling at loss, but at more of a gain in that, He was now happy and a part of Everything.
Since that time, much has changed in my life. I am now over 4 years sober, I have a mission and a Soul Path that I am in passionate love with, as well as a wonderful soul mate that I live with, a beautiful relationship with my friends, and family… I mean, life has gotten really, really, good. It’s reall, really, REALLY great. I have things that I have become attached to, and as the Buddhist’s will tell you, attachment leads to suffering. I always understood that on a cerebral level, but I am starting to explore it in my heart. About 4 months ago, that topic of death started to come up again. Not because anyone close to me died, but because I am getting older. I am the age that my mom was when I was 1 year old . That blows my mind. I look at her and I see this beautiful woman that has lived a few decades since then, and it is inevitable that she too, will parish one day. The same goes for every single person I know, and every single person in this world. All of a sudden I am like really understanding that in order to live, we must die eventually. So when my friend passed away on Thanksgiving, I got the understanding that we Live after we die, but now I am coming to terms with that in order to do that, we will go through the process of shedding this physical form. So here we are, back at the subject of death. Did you know that Buddhists speak of death in a very casual way? That is what I wish to do here. I don’t wish to sound morbid, or to upset anyone reading this, but to rather come together and just talk about it. I love that. I wish it were something that was easy to talk about for me, and this is my effort to do so. I believe that at this time on my Spiritual path, I am meant to be accepting of it. Now more than ever, because as my life gets better, the more and more I wish to stay just as I am, and the problem that this presents is that the Universe, all of it, is always changing. If I refuse to look at this inevitable change, I will become a person who is in denial, and before I know it, I am subconsciously acting out of a place of fear. I don’t want to live my years in a state of denial or depression about aging. I wish to embrace every day fully, as I get older, every single day. When I accept that this too, shall pass, there is no living in the future or the past, there is only this present moment at hand. That is all we really have here. When I am Present, I am at Peace.
In the past few months, I have had random chats about aging and death. Here are some of their thoughts on this topic.
One was with a 60 or so year old rock climber. It very naturally came up as we talked about travel and nature. He very casually spoke of death and said it was something he thought of all the time. He said to me that the Buddhist say, that if we reach the highest state of Consciousness, that we return as a Tree. Trees in Buddhism are perfection. I have been contemplating that one ever since, I am not sure I am ready for Tree-Ness… but, perhaps that is so.
My friend who is also a yoga teacher, tattoo artist, sailor, internet marketer, you name it, was over for New Years Eve. A couple of us stayed up late, and this topic came up. As the 3 of us sat there, chatting about death, he said that he got the chance to live with a man who was dying. He rented this man a room in his house so that he could die in peace. The Man and He talked about dying often as the Buddhist do, and when he did die, it was very peaceful because they both accepted that this was going to happen. By the time it happened, he said, the Man was so ready, that he looked happy about it. My friend said that, whatever ends up happening after death, He is sure that it will be incredible, because we have a God that would have it no other way.
He also spoke of a Zen teacher who would do a long chant while with her Sangha (Spiritual Community) and at the very end her words were, “Don’t waste time.” This is what sits with me today. “Not wasting time.” I feel very confident that I am here to fulfill a purpose that was given to me before birth, perhaps many births ago. I can chose to follow this Path of Seeking and Spirituality, of Love, Presence, Discovery, and Peace, or I can chose not to.
What are your thoughts on aging and death? I am open to ALL beliefs, I believe it is important that I and We stay teachable, open. I respect your beliefs. Remember, we don’t have to agree on everything. That is what open communication and discussion is all about. I ask that you respect each others beliefs on this thread as it grows, with love, peace, and good faith.
Finally, I leave you with a quote that my dear friend who passed on Thanksgiving Day left on his Facebook… “If you surround yourself with beautiful things, you become the things that you see.”
Be the beauty that you inherently are. All you have to do is look in the mirror; it has been there all along. Every day, from the day you were born until the day that you leave this body, you are perfection, and please don’t miss an opportunity to embrace that and share it with others. You have a unique purpose that is Yours and Yours only. Tap in to it. Don’t waste time.
E-RYT, CYT, Wellness Promoter and Writer
Check out this article on the process of aging and death from a Buddhist perspective ,“Once there is a deep acceptance of death, life will happen to you in enormous proportions.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sadhguru/death-spirituality-_b_1409625.html