Contemplative Practices and Conscious Dying V:  Unitive Practices

“Well. . . if you were my wife,” my young doctor began to answer my question.  Faced with a challenging decision, I had asked, “If you were me, what would you choose?”  But he was not able even to imagine being me; the closest he could approximate was envisioning his wife as me. This is not unusual.  Throughout my journey with chronic, serious illness I have had countless experiences of feeling just how different the people around me – doctors, nurses, friends, family members – may perceive themselves to be from me. And my guess is that each of us […]

Contemplative Practices and Conscious Dying IV:  Purgative Practices

  My second journey with death, the one that was precipitated by the birth of my second child, was drastically different from my first encounter with dying. If that initial meeting with death contained many experiences that felt like visiting Heaven, this journey closely resembled nightmares of Hell.  Illuminative Practices and the states of consciousness they touched upon were not often available to me.  Rather, I consistently felt mired in emotional, psychological, and physical pain that seemed to demand most of my awareness most of the time. The grief I felt at the thought of leaving my newborn child and […]

Contemplative Practices and Conscious Dying III:  Illuminative Practices

After my first heart surgery, through which doctors and nurses temporarily halted the advance of my condition and prolonged my life, I discovered that I did not want to leave the hospital; in fact, as I gradually became well enough to be sent home, I found myself very fearful of departing.  It was not the physical space of the hospital that I did not want to leave; rather, it was the place of in between, where I could be both in this world and journey to that elsewhere I visited so often from my hospital bed.  I frequently had encountered […]

Contemplative Practices and Conscious Dying II:  Practicing for Death

  Dualities in Dying As I began to gather resources to help me learn how to die, I quickly became aware of the predominant language used to discuss protracted deaths; people talked and wrote about “peaceful” deaths and “good” deaths and “dying well”.  And none of these phrases felt good to me; indeed, none felt life giving.   Where there is a good, there is a bad; when something can be done well, it can also be done poorly; peaceful exists in contrast to violent.  More boundaries.  More division.  More duality. I immediately knew that there were right ways to do […]

Contemplative Practices and Conscious Dying I:  Views from my Deathbeds

Erasing the Lines “When I was dying.”   “While I am dying.” “The next time I will be dying.” These are phrases I say quite often.  Indeed, this is the only way I refer to my first death journey seventeen years ago, the two other death journeys I have experienced since that one, and those I have not yet encountered.   And every time I use such phrases I see looks of confusion on the faces of those around me.  They may be wondering, “How could she have been dying and be here now?”  Perhaps they would prefer for me to […]