A healthy relationship with Death

Submitted by Open on Sun, 06/05/2011 - 06:33

How often do you contemplate passing on?
Whether we appreciate it or not, we are all just one step away from death. In our culture, it seems to me that death has been so glamorised, fantasised and above all sanitised, that we've buried its true meaning under mountains of conditioning. It's either surrealised for Hollywood movies or pushed under the carpet of drug-induced, idealistic health-service longevity. It causes people to fear it, to deny or to ignore it. Paradoxically, such activity takes away the true meaning of life itself. It constrains and limits us. However, when we can constantly embrace the close proximity of death, without fearing it, I've discovered it's an incredible liberation. It sets us free to accept the moment fully, as it is, and to soar on the out-stretched wings of empowerment...

The blade edge of life

We've just been watching episodes of "The Human Planet", have you seen it yet? It is an amazing BBC documentary about how indigenous cultures survive in some of the most extreme conditions and environments across the planet. One episode stood out for me the most: a tribe living in the heart of the Sahara Desert, where water of course is so incredibly precious. It felt like they were living continually on the blade edge of life.

Eyes wide in wonder, we watched as a small party of women set out on a typical three-day journey across the barren wilderness in search of a small well just a metre or so across. Within a vast sea of endlessly shifting sands, navigation is supremely tough and yet without compass, they must be as precise as a Swiss watch. The desert's timeless accuracy is unforgiving, get it slightly wrong and you die. And what amazed me most, was that for the final 10 hour leg of this arduous journey, the leading lady handed responsibility over to her 10 year old daughter!

Evolution's fine attunement had taught the tribe perfectly, yet even as they found the well with seeming effortlessness, there was still an evidently palpable sense of relief and joy spread across beaming faces. Can you imagine just what that must feel like? How incredibly real that is? The sense of accomplishment must touch deep inside the soul.

Getting to what's really real

On the workshops that we do here at Openhand, when trying to figure out what the soul is inviting of us, I'll sometimes get people to contemplate what's the worst possible thing that can happen from a particular choice. When death is truly contemplated and confronted, what we may perceive as truly necessary in our lives or vitally important, frequently falls away.

In such a state - when fully embraced - it can cause you to connect 100% with what is going on right now in this moment. Fears or worries in life are ready to dissipate: getting paid, uprooting location, the responsibility of a job, what friends and family think of you, they can all vanish like an illusionary desert mirage.

You're putting your hand right through the canvass of life into what's really real. There is nothing else going on in that moment but the inner exploration of life and death, of everything and nothing, of not-being coming into being. And that is the polarity that defines every action in life anyway, so why not rest in the confrontation of it and feel what that actually means? I've discovered that when we can continually do this, then authentic action - that which is not distorted by the mind's meaningless meanderings - arises much more easily.

The serenity of death's inevitable proximity

Most of us are just not aware in day-to-day living how close the hand of death is. It can come for us at any time, in a myriad of different ways. It is an absolute unavoidable aspect of our reality. It is more real than most things we tend to engage our lives with, and yet by living within its inevitable proximity, can unleash enormous freedom of action - pure power.

As the engulfing flames of flapping and fear subside, an incredible serenity emerges from their ashes. The cacophony of life's seemingly endless noise silences. The moment expands to infinity and in this place, anything can happen. We're completely liberated to follow the truth of the moment. We can more easily give up the need for the moment to be a particular way. We don't need to placate anyone. The yoke of responsibility and obligation slip from ones shoulders. We find we can master any desire, conditioned want or illusionary need. We find we can more easily pare all this away, bringing us right into what really matters in this moment - what matters to the soul.

No more dream holidays, abundant materialism or trying to manifest illusionary realities. Their tissue thin insignificance dissolves in truth's glaring spotlight. We're left with absolute simplicity, a smile from shining eyes, a water droplet softly running down the skin, a cool breeze stroking your face, evening stars cosily caressing our expansiveness. Simple things that truly touch the soul.

Simplicity through the complexity
And when we're in this space of absolute serenity, I find we can exist through the complexity of modern day living and still locate the simple perfection of the moment. Complexity's garment rustles to the ground. Simplicity is eruditely revealed, naked in her surrendered femininity, supremely sensitive to the truth laid bare. To me, this is what living is all about. It means we can more easily follow Right Action - that in tune with our soul, aligned with the natural organising energy of the universe.

I believe this is the reason the Dalai Lama suggests we 'meditate' on death daily.

So have you contemplated your death recently? Have you done it today? Have you gone deeply inwards and explored the outer boundaries of your life, poked your finger through the constraining canvass and broken out into absolute eternal presence? If not, then perhaps it's time to keep exploring, to keep dropping into the reality of the moment because in truth, there really is nothing else.

This then, is how a continual confrontation of death can bring us oh so much closer to life.

(on behalf of Openhand)
(Publishers - please publish with links intact and the Openhand brief biog. Thankyou <3)

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    You would know the secret of death.
    But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
    The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
    If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
    For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

    In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
    And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
    Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
    Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
    Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
    Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

    For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
    And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

    Kahlil Gibran

This article contains so many lines that I said myself so many times.

I have a long relationship with the subject of death. The first time I brought a knife edge to my belly in contemplation of suicide when I was 10. The suicide escape was my idee fixe for so many years. Last time I tried to do it was when I was 24, last time it was piercing my mind was ~a year ago...

While the subject of suicide is a different one and I have a lot to say about this interesting experience, it is still strongly correlated for me with death.

Since 14 I became very aware that I can die at any moment on one hand, and on the other hand life seemed too long and too tough and miserable to bear. So these were the keys to my major frustration and depression. Not because of death, but because of what I back then thought life has to offer.

I was deeply unhappy. So for me death was the ultimate way to escape, to run away. I was begging to take me away, I couldn't understand why so many people die out there, but not me. And many times I was angry at myself for my cowardice to embrace it and do something more radical than just poison myself.

At some point I realized that I either don't want to die, or something out there doesn't want me dead, plus I was 20 and I saw how fast time is running, and I just could see it here, now, I had a big 'age crisis', and then the line "not much left, not much left" became an ultimate comfort...

And from this point I began to really look for alternative ways, to work on myself. I was not ready to live the way my mom convinced me life is. And I was so right!!!! I knew it can't be! School, university, marriage, children, old fart and death??? Is this what you want me to live for? NO! I lost my trust in what I was told and HULLO!!! :D Here I am!!!

Soooooo happyyyyyyy!!!!! :D

And then I could look on death from the other side.

Does anybody know this feeling: oh my God! This moment is so perfect that I don't care to die now? melt away? hhhhhhhh


Also these are so 'reversible' I found:
"Most of us are just not aware in day-to-day living how close the hand of death is. It can come for us at any time in a myriad of different ways. It is an absolute unavoidable aspect of our reality. It is more real than most things we tend to engage our lives with and yet by living within its inevitable proximity, can unleash enormous freedom of action - pure power.

As the engulfing flames of flapping and fear subside, an incredible serenity emerges from their ashes. The cacophony of life's seemingly endless noise silences. The moment expands to infinity and in this place, anything can happen. "

If I really live the moment and ready for anything to happen, then it includes the death too and is just so freeing! :)

Thank you!

Chris and Trinity, thank you so much for the encouraging and poetic posts, they touched my soul! Indeed I often feel there is nothing else to do than to explore the outer boundaries of our life. When I read about the indigenous people reaching the small well and Chris asked "Can you imagine just what that must feel like? How incredibly real that is? The sense of accomplishment must touch deep inside the soul," the "Little Prince" came to my mind immediately. And I cannot help it but quote from it and share the following passage:

"I am thirsty, too. Let us look for a well . . ."

I made a gesture of weariness. It is absurd to look for a well, at random, in the immensity of the desert. But nevertheless we started walking.

When we had trudged along for several hours, in silence, the darkness fell, and the stars began to come out. Thirst had made me a little feverish, and I looked at them as if I were in a dream. The little prince's last words came reeling back into my memory:

"Then you are thirsty, too?" I demanded.

But he did not reply to my question. He merely said to me:

"Water may also be good for the heart . . ."


"The desert is beautiful," the little prince added.

And that was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams . . .

"What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well . . ."

I was astonished by a sudden understanding of that mysterious radiation of the sands. When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and legend told us that a treasure was buried there. To be sure, no one had ever known how to find it; perhaps no one had ever even looked for it. But it cast an enchantment over that house. My home was hiding a secret in the depths of its heart . . .

"Yes," I said to the little prince. "The house, the stars, the desert--what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible!"


And, as I walked on so, I found the well, at daybreak.

"Men," said the little prince, "set out on their way in express trains, but they do not know what they are looking for. Then they rush about, and get excited, and turn round and round . . ."

And he added:

"It is not worth the trouble . . ."

The well that we had come to was not like the wells of the Sahara. The wells of the Sahara are mere holes dug in the sand. This one was like a well in a village. But there was no village here, and I thought I must be dreaming . . .

"It is strange," I said to the little prince. "Everything is ready for use: the pulley, the bucket, the rope . . ."

He laughed, touched the rope, and set the pulley to working. And the pulley moaned, like an old weathervane which the wind has long since forgotten.

"Do you hear?" said the little prince. "We have wakened the well, and it is singing . . ."

I did not want him to tire himself with the rope.

"Leave it to me," I said. "It is too heavy for you."

I hoisted the bucket slowly to the edge of the well and set it there--happy, tired as I was, over my achievement. The song of the pulley was still in my ears, and I could see the sunlight shimmer in the still trembling water.

"I am thirsty for this water," said the little prince. "Give me some of it to drink . . ."

And I understood what he had been looking for.

I raised the bucket to his lips. He drank, his eyes closed. It was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present. When I was a little boy, the lights of the Christmas tree, the music of the Midnight Mass, the tenderness of smiling faces, used to make up, so, the radiance of the gifts I received.

"The men where you live," said the little prince, "raise five thousand roses in the same garden--and they do not find in it what they are looking for."

"They do not find it," I replied.

"And yet what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water."

"Yes, that is true," I said.

And the little prince added:

"But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart . . ."

(excerpt from chapter 24/25 "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

Hi Everyone

I often contemplate death. I have done since I was a small child and was intrigued (at the risk of it sounding a little strange) when I was about to see a dead person for the first time.

It helped that I didnt have any emotional connection to this person, as I was supporting a friend. But as I entered the room ...the thoughts that popped into my mind were 'its ok, they have just gone somewhere else'. As though the body was just an empty vessel, very peacefully so and that the essence of the person was still very much alive. This was many years ago before I had re remembered much of the knowledge around past lives etc, that I know now as my truth.

I find it useful to say to myself 'if i were on my death bed, would this really matter'. Its great for gaining perspective.

I also feel that if humans didnt experience death, we would be much less humble as a race and would take alot more for granted. Having said that I am also aware that I am amoung the strange few that think about death alot in this way, and that a large majority try to avoid it at all costs!

So I agree wholeheartedly that everyone would benefit for more direct contact with the subject.

Its a fascinating topic to explore!

With Love


Every day we go to sleep and then the next morning we wake up. Death is an illusion because death is really part of life, death is necessary to transform mankind into right thought and right action, the basis of living in the now. If you think of death as no different then going to sleep at night and waking up the next morning, what is there to fear. In fact a person's choices that come from the ego (past/future thought) are revealed by death in order to purify the soul towards life as present and eternal truth.

Thank you for this important topic! and Trinity, Kahlil Gibran says it all so beautifully...

at the threshold of death there is such an intensity that from there all life before and after gets into another light.. it is true, it is "no more" than a transition but isn't this saying a lot?

but I feel what Chris was focussing on in his post, if I take it right, though English is not my own language, was not so much dying but standing at the door of it. he talks about a certain awareness.

I have not yet faced my own death but I was there, fully, at every single moment of the death of my dear father. I remember: a couple of days before he died we got "the verdict" from the doctors -- and at that point the world changed.

It became HERE AND NOW. Surprisingly we did not feel sadness. Not even good-bye. Just a peculiar kind of clarity. A lazer sharp awareness of every moment together. We kept that heightened state of awareness for days.

I knew which night he is going to make his transition, so did he. For hours and hours I was breathing with him, pumping huge amounts of energy into him to help, because dying, actual dying requires lots of effort... just like birth does.

this was almost 15 years ago. since then I am in search of these kinds of moments :-), this is one of the reasons why I became a doula: I simply wanted to stand there in that door. One is in, the other is out... I was trying to witness it too during my own births (though I was too busy :-), but there were precious moments when I could soar...)

Once you have this awareness things do change. Your look on things changes. Of course values are reconsidered. Yes, we do become more humble, more appreciative too.
We do learn to love more. And to allow ourselves to be loved more.

But to me, this awareness is so precious. It is like a lighthouse to follow, like a campus to show direction.

love to you all, and thanks for all the sharings,

Hi Reka,

What a wonderful sharing - thanks so much for posting. It's actually very relevant for me right now because my father is soon to undergo intensive open heart surgery. So it's very poignant for me indeed!

Thanks and blessings


In reply to by OpenhandTeam

thank you for telling me. I'll pray.
and of yourse I know you know, he'll be fine. :-)

what an amazing possibility for the heart to see the light... i think our organs do see too. if it is not a shock it can actually be an enlightening experience for the heart too.

forgiveness that pops to mind now.
"If you want to give something, give forgiveness."-someone said once. i like that because it is not easy. :-)

I wish you and your father all the strength of love

Thanks for your empathy Reka.

The wonderful thing for me is that i don't have any negative feelings about my father's operation at all.

I've contemplated the fact that he might die. But I don't feel moved to pray for him nor to hope that he'll get better (whatever 'better' means).

Instead I trust that if it is his time, then that's entirely right, that it will be the best thing for him and an opportunity for those around him to be empowered as he leaves.

I would see it as my role to help his soul move on.

So although I love him dearly, actually I'm very relaxed about the outcome.


In reply to by OpenhandTeam

Dear Chris,
I am sure you are able to do that - so few can. To help his soul move on.
Thank you, again, for sharing this personal story.

When my father was dying, though at that time we still did not know that, I saw a wonderful documentary film. "By chance" :-) ha-ha...

It was about hospices and a beautiful woman talking about how she went through her mother's dying process. Not knowing why, yet, I was glued to the film. It was in this film where 'I was told" that it is important to actually pronounce the words loud out "I let you go, you can go".

When the time came, I was ready to say those words to my dad.
But God! How hard it was.

But of course I was very young then, who knows, maybe now it would be a different story. Or maybe it would be even harder? Or maybe not...

But one of the moments that you might call pre-awakening, or awakening, happened there, after I kissed his dead face good-bye. Suddenly, I was turned out of time and space and could feel his presence all around me. I could feel how much he loved me.

I will never stop being emotional about this all. :-)
I hope I am not intruding this forum, with too much personal story...
With love, and a big trust in the importance of facing death, as you said above...

It's a beautiful story Reka - I thank you so much for sharing it.

You are most welcome here in the community. We look forwards to you sharing more as you feel moved to.

And yes, you have also touched on a very important point. When a soul passes on, if they are in fear or heavy attachment to the physical, what can happen is they build an energy body around the soul as it departs the body. They don't find their way into the light and become earth bound.

They can be released again: as facilitators we must form a connection - a bridge - between them and the angelic realms. It is done through deep conscious feeling and awareness.

Ideally as the soul leaves the body, they will pass straight into the light, and yes, we can help in that process by letting go ourselves and ensuring them they have 'permission' to pass on - just as you did.


In reply to by OpenhandTeam

dear Chris,
in a tradition I received lots of teachings from (very painful ones these days, but maybe this is the real teaching, that's another story..) we are given very nice teachings about dying. they also talk about this passage to the light. and how at the moment of passing (which is in fact the process of dissolution of our physical body, built from its 5 elements that in the dying process gradually all melt into each other), we are given 3 seconds (meant poetically, I suppose time is different then) where judgement on our lives is given. But lo and behold, this judgement is given by ourselves. :-) we can have a mantra, a so called PRAN SUTRA (but all religions have their special prayers) which is a help, like an anchor to hold onto, so that at them moment of seeing our lives we should not lose our neutral minds, and do not haste into judgementalism about what we have done, or failed to do, but stay in this pure awareness of accepting all we could be in our lives.

also, they talk a lot about souls being trapped here. and that how through meditation, when many people meditate together for instance, the tunnels through these realms (they call them the 4 blue ethers) can be opened, and that there are seers who see those souls just rushing through and out.

do you have any experience along these lines? or thoughts to share? Thank you!
just because you mention the angelic realms. I am sure these expressions all talk about the same things.

again, thank you for providing this space to takl about all this. I really appreciate!

Hi Chris

Just a suggestion, why don't you get your father read the book 'The China Study', especially the section on heart problem? I know you're awesomely okay with any possible outcome regarding your fathers heart operation, but such operations are really completely unnecessary, most of the heart problems are easily curable if the person can simply eliminate most of the fat out of their diet. The recoveries are usually very rapid by just keeping the fat as low as possible (especially eliminating all animal fat).


Hi Lei,

Thanks for your suggestion - believe me, I have tried to get him to take more interest in his health and well-being. He did yoga for quite some time but has really abandoned all attempts at looking into the depths of things - yet I see an ancient light in his eyes.

He really is in quite a bad way now - finding it practically impossible to walk. He's pretty committed to the operation - replacing a valve in the aorta and by-passing another key artery. I think diet is for the next incarnation - fortunately he believes in reincarnation!


Hi Reka,

In answer to your question, I've had lots of experiences in working with and releasing earth-bound souls. For me, each one is a unique experience that has to be intuited and felt through the process.

A connection has to be made with the soul first. Then to understand why they are being held - this normally happens as a telepathic connection. Then I use the information to create some kind of bridge. For example, I came across an earth-bound soul in Wales once. He'd been blown up in a slate quarry and was 'haunting' a particular house. I used slate to guide him out of the house and formed a telepathic bridge to his mother who was in spirit. The connection was bridged and he was able to transcend into the light. His recognition of his mother caused the energetic bubble he was caught in to dissolve.

Sometimes it is possible to create an entire vortex of energy that spans dimensions - that we may draw in and recover groups of earthbound souls, such as in a war zone for example. They're quite amazing experiences.


In reply to by OpenhandTeam

thank you very much!
and what do you feel, think, intuit about "judging" ourselves? into being earthbound (which as from your story, can be a result of shock), or into lower and higher realms?
or is it not how it all works?
i might be asking questions like a kindergarten child does :-)
but i know what really matters is what is here and now, it is just that I appreaciate the freedom to ask questions like that :)
thank you