What did I expect to learn?
I had one concrete expectation: to visualise my own body dying, decaying and rotting. This kind of traditional meditation on death is no secret and can be powerful medicine.
That one didn’t work out so well, because I couldn’t decide where to die — in the sea, where my skin would peel, flesh disintegrate, sharks bite and kahawai nibble, or on the land, where dogs, rot, birds, maggots and ants would play their part. So in my case, that meditation was a tad blurry. Perhaps I wasn’t ready.
A high point was lying flat with my head simply cradled by a stranger. Now that was an extraordinarily moving experience. As the minutes ticked by, consciousness slowly drained from the rest of my body until I existed only in my head, linked by warm palms to a point of human kindness. All I could perceive at this moment was a shimmering mandala with a violet rim and a core of white light shining on or in or through my eyelids— a physiological vision of my vision, I suppose.
Then we changed positions, and I cradled his heart while he just lay there and breathed for 20 minutes. I wasn’t the only person to feel this experience as a gift to the spirit.
If nothing else had happened all day, this exchange would still have eased my heart.
Six new thoughts about death
I’m not saying I became enlightened. I would never claim or even aim to be living perfectly or ready to die. But I do now understand a few things better in my own little way.
- The moment of death may be gentle, easeful and loving.
- Awareness of mortality heightens our appreciation of life, or in other words I am bloody lucky to have had 75 years on this perfect planet already and hey look, I’m still here!
- Mr Death reckons I’ve made an OK fist of my life so far and anyway, nobody cares.
- I’m the one and only me on earth and there will never be another person just like me. So there.
- I may go to a party on Saturday week or I may die first.
- Either way, that's going to pretty much work out OK.
Image from “A handbook of obstetrical nursing for nurses, students, and mothers” (1891) Fullerton, Anna M. Public domain.