I pause and sit in stillness for a time, collecting myself around the idea of death. “When I stop and reflect on this, I find that death is always with me. You could say it’s lurking in the shadows—the grim reaper. But you might also say death is watching reverently, monitoring my progress in life. This is just the opposite, of course. Perhaps both are true. In either sense, it seems that death is alive.”
V interrupts, “I like that. Death certainly is alive. That puts it squarely in the bosom of the Life of Source, our subject at hand.”
I continue, “Realizing that death has always been with me—like a presence—I can almost see it the way Ingmar Bergman did, as a chess player, in his classic film, The Seventh Seal.
“I’m feeling a need to talk about presence for a moment though. I’m sensing—streaming—something. I’ve suspected this before, but it’s hitting me with a new force, like a revelation. Presence is never separate or individualized. It is not personal. Yet, by definition and by reality, it’s always present. Death is not ‘personal’ either, though it certainly affects our personal selves.
“All presence is one! Perhaps all deaths are one, too. And I have felt that before, but I always thought it was ‘my’ presence or ‘your’ presence, too—somehow individualized—as in my death or yours. I’m seeing now that as I find the presence in myself, it is always also the presence of all. That’s what makes it so special; it’s a direct, unmitigated connection to Oneness; and it is equally available to everyone and every creature, every bit of creation—continuously, if we would be aware of it.
“Death is like that, too. In fact it is exactly like that; it connects us directly to Oneness! When we die as separate individuals we become free to be infinite! I’m getting, strangely, that death is actually synonymous with presence; it is the same as stillness and the Now. Does that make any sense, V?”
She replies, “Yes, it does. In fact, the reason most people resist the arising of presence within themselves is precisely because they fear death; they are afraid of what it will make them realize about themselves. Their egos resist it and are rightly concerned, for as presence rises, ego diminishes; it begins to die. The ego fears presence just as much as it fears death. In each of the portals to Oneness—stillness, spaciousness, the Now, faith, presence and indeed death—there is divine synchrony and synonymy.” She stops, waiting for me.
“So, understanding death involves facing one’s ego and looking it squarely in the eye. Ego is what stands in the way of finding both presence and death. As we clearly see our ego self for what it is—an illusion of the first order—we can look into the face of death unflinchingly. It no longer represents the loss of life, or Life, as you would say. Death ends the form, but not the formless spirit within it.” I pause to absorb what has just come to me from the ‘stream’.
V places an invisible hand on my forehead. “Please continue.”
I nod, feeling the energy coming from her hand. I resume, “I have realized, too, something about my own personal life over the last year: I know the reason for my recent health issues; they have been life-threatening—namely, heart and lung issues and in general, aging. In fact, I underwent a medical procedure called, cardioversion, in which doctors stopped my heart for some time; this was to re-establish a more normal pulse rhythm. This is funny: As I thought I was typing the word, ‘aging’ just now, my fingers keyed in ‘gaining’; what an interesting mistake. I guess I believe we do gain as we age. Perhaps, if we’re really alert, we gain presence. So, as part of my body’s aging toward death, I have ‘gained’ an opportunity to find death before it finds me.”
V comments, “You might even say you’re gaining on death.”
“That rings true,” I reflect, smiling. “So, about the concept of ‘finding’: If I’m going to find death, just where is it? Is it off in some future circumstance of my life? Is there an ‘appointed hour’ for it, yet to be revealed or found? Do I have any influence over its particulars, its manner or timing? If I meditate, eat good food and exercise—play the right chess pieces—can I forestall it for a season, a year or two?”
V remains silent, so I continue my monologue, “Death ultimately lies within us, as I’ve seen; it’s a portal of presence. Finding death means searching within. But what am I looking for? How will I know if I’ve found it? Is it simply a matter of increasing my knowledge and information about death? If I exhaustively study all its characteristics, will I have found it? I think not. That seems too easy, too mental. I intuit that there must be an inspiration, an infusion of the presence of death into my awareness for a true ‘finding’. Still, I’m not exactly sure what that means.
“I see uncertainty is my the starting point here: Back to the unknown, back to the beginning again. Everything starts there. Even my own self is unknown to itself, it seems. Who am I, after all is said and done, after all the words and thoughts and questions? I’m not a name or a job. I am not even my body, not my mind. I don’t really know who I am, or what I am. In essence, I am unknown! If so, can I ever truly know myself? Can I know death?
“Can this death-presence actually be found and known before it finds me? Is this a race? Great teachers—and my own intuition—tell me ‘yes’, at least to the first question. It may not be a race, but it sure seems like one to me—hmm, that is, to my mind.”
Then an idea occurs. “Perhaps ‘finding’ and ‘knowing’ are different things. Perhaps I can find death without actually knowing it. Just as I can perhaps find myself without really knowing who I am. I have found that I am my awareness. But I do not truly know what awareness is; I don’t know it as a thing or objective reality.”
The elder woman finally responds, “Another way of saying this is you haven’t yet put your awareness and consciousness together. When you bring consciousness out to meet your incarnate awareness, it will no longer be identified with the word ‘my’. At this point, consciousness is identical with awareness, the ‘I am presence’ is awakened. Until then, you will use concepts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, ‘distance’ and ‘time’. You will continue to anticipate and conjecture instead of realize. This has been called the ‘pre-conscious’ stage. However, once you begin moving your awareness toward a merger with consciousness, you have entered the ‘awakening’ stage. You have entered presence. Or, more accurately, presence has entered you.”
She goes on, “To experience presence you must encounter it; the same is true of death. This cannot be an academic exercise, viewed from afar, from the separated mind. Presence must be brought up close and personal. To truly find death before it finds you, you must let it touch you; and you touch it in return. This you have done. The opening has been made—the portal is alive. Now you may explore it.
“You may begin the exploration using your mind, emotions and sensations. But then you must go deeper, out of mind. You can only walk this path by trusting and letting go into consciousness with faith—by being fully embraced in it. This is coming full face before your maker—who is also your destroyer. To engage this exercise, this sacrament, you must have courage; you must fear no evil in the ‘valley of the shadow of death’.”
I react to this, shaking my head. “Death does certainly have a dark side!”
“Yes,” she says. “But only in the duality world. In its true essence it is neither dark nor light. It is merely the way of change. Take the scythe for example, a symbol that often accompanies icons of death; it reaps souls from the field of the living. The scythe is a curved blade—part of the circle of life; it symbolizes what we are severed from duality and gathered up, finally ripe for harvesting. The other, larger portion of the circle of life is unseen in this symbol; it connotes the emptiness, invisible and formless. The whole circle together—small part tangible, larger part not—is the ‘in and out’ of incarnation. Emptiness gives birth to form and receives it back again in the end, back to the beginning.
“The scythe is our friend, not a grim enemy, reaping us without compassion. Nevertheless, reap it does. Such is the nature of passages. Knowing this is the first step in your exploration of death. You must first see through the ghost of grim—into grace. Look at the shape of the scythe itself—the elegantly curved edge, so sharp and sure. It is designed for one purpose—to cleave the aspiring herb from its mortal roots, to set it free. Someone once said that ‘death is the only true freedom’. Cleavage can be abrupt and disturbing. All death is disturbing to the flesh. Yet it is a disruption that renders us clean, fresh and ready for renewed life.
“At death, we are free of roots in the Earth. We turn upside-down and are swept away, up into the stream of being. Our singular root is instantly re-grown—as one, the taproot back to soul, solar angel and Source. The severing, re-rooting and rebooting at death is a moment when all souls recall their heritage. And a blessed moment it is. Each soul feels led out in death, through the portal that crosses the Veil of Incarnation. We are only allowed to pass completely through this portal once per lifetime.
“Passing out of a lifetime is, in truth, jubilation! It frees, refreshes and purifies. The ego strips away; the masks dissolve. There is release from the pain and struggle of incarnate life. The ‘thought up’ universe falls into bliss and silence. Yet this silence is a song composed of a million melodies in a single note—just one crescendo tone, the eigenvalue—unique significance—for the just-completed life.
“The singularity of each passage is striking: Every death is wholly unique, utterly precious in its own moment. It has never been before, never will be again. It comes to some with profound finality—a checkmate, the play of pawns, queens and kings. Other deaths come as twisted irony, summing and revealing hidden meanings inside all the passing events of a life. And then there are deaths that surprise and astound in their suddenness; these deliver an ultimate punctuation for the soul survivor, and a burst of revelation.
“Some death passages linger and are drawn out over long periods of time; these give the soul ample opportunity to appreciate its dilemma and destiny. Some are kind and timely deliverances into the bosom of essence and waiting angels. Others are joyful explosions out of bitter confinement. Each death is quite wonderful in its way. If you only knew what blessings it can bestow, you would celebrate it in many more ways than you do.”
I mumble, “I guess that’s a good enough reason to get to know it in advance.”
V falls silent again, letting the silence seep into me with gracious import. My mind goes blank and empty. I notice this and smile. When, at last, I feel a renewed readiness, she senses it and continues, “Our universal impulse to be free shatters the bonds of separate identity. While we are bound to our forms—even our ideas of individual Oneness, we must know that they are only pointers to the formless essence, toward the realm beyond form. That is true freedom. No thought. No emotion. No holding on, or even holding together. To be free we must explode, from the subatomic particle out—out into the nature of reality. This is finding death.”
I interrupt, “Yes, but is it ‘finding death before it finds you’?”
“There is no ‘before’ or ‘after’ in the Now. To say, ‘find death before it finds you’ is just another way of saying ‘be present’!”
“Really? I don’t get it.”
“Death happens only in the Now. To wait until you die physically to experience it is like waiting until some future time before you experience the moment you’re already in, that you will always be in. In that space, if you pay attention thoroughly, you will be exploded, shredded into essence. The truth of Oneness has that effect. Here is a small poem to describe what I’m saying. Perhaps you can ‘get it’ this way:
Oneness strips us to the bone,
and shreds us to the atom down.
And down around.
‘Wake!’ it shouts,
‘And be alert, to come and find
yourself on hallowed ground.’”
I ponder. “I still don’t get it. Why would Oneness ‘strip us to the bone’?”
“The metaphor points to essential simplicity and singularity. All the complexity of the world is built up from this. It must be taken down again, disintegrated, before you return to your true self, the one self—which is your real home. This is the foundation of ‘beginning again’.”
I ask, “Is this ‘finding’ then—stripping down to simple essence?”
“Yes. Finding is a process of focusing into consciousness, of bringing your awareness down into minimal nature and humility. As you humble your mind within the deeper resonance, you exalt your being into the ultimate transcendent discovery. To find death is to discover the transcendence of form and time; to do so before it is forced upon you at the end of your incarnation, is to be at one with consciousness—now, not then. To merge your awareness with death is the awakening. It is the Life of Source.
“The impulse to ‘find oneself’ is another way of describing the drive to merge awareness with consciousness. It is identical with the desire to be integrated with others, and paradoxically, also to be perfectly alone; this is knowing oneself. But Oneness is not what we think it is in our minds. Thought has little to do with it. The togetherness that we, the soul, truly seek is actually annihilation of the togetherness sought by our finite minds. This may sound contradictory. But ‘togetherness’ implies separate entities assembling and uniting. ‘Unity’ is only a facsimile of Oneness, not the real thing.”
I squirm as I try to contemplate what she’s saying. It is making me uncomfortable to hear that we, humans, are so far from understanding true Oneness, true reality.
V resumes with a soft voice, “The intention of this message is not to force harsh or contradictory beliefs onto humble personalities. It is not to shock or cajole the mind out of its assigned mission in form. On the contrary, we acknowledge that the persona has a responsibility to engage fully—even unto complete identification with form at times. What our intention here is, is only to indicate a way for you to return to Life, the foundation of what is real and true—below all the in-formation. It is to provide a recognition and essence alignment with ‘who you really are’, with your deep authenticity.”
I interrupt, “There it is again, that conundrum: You’re saying we must align with who we ‘really are’ and yet you’ve also said we can’t really know who we are!”
“To that, I say this: There is a key requisite for the return to Life. If you are not accepting of your own ‘isness’, you cannot even begin the journey. If death finds you before you find it, ‘isness’ escapes you, the moment has not been seized. Your awareness remains disconnected from consciousness. You must then wait for another incarnation before it can actively awaken and erase the Veil of Forgetfulness on Earth for you.”
“Excuse me,” I interject. “What do you mean by ‘isness’?”
“Isness is ‘what is’—taken into your identity. It is the quality of accepting and acting out of presence, of representing your being to the world from a single point of attention. The root of the word ‘is’ is the same as ‘I’ or ‘I am’.”
I press on, “So, you’re saying that ‘isness’ is a statement of identity in the moment of existence—and that it is a step in connecting awareness and consciousness, of returning to Life.”
“Yes, that’s about it. So, ‘isness’ is a requisite entryway into Now—the one-pointed pointer into deep consciousness. The deeper you can be, the deeper it is, and the nearer you will be to the light of awakening.”
“Well, that certainly sounds good to me. But just how do we go deeper into Now?”
“It entails releasing your personal resistance to what is. Resistance blocks the internal light; it generates ‘shadows’ that keep you distracted and pull your awareness into darkness. The light and the dark must be embraced as one, in the moment of ‘what is’, before the gift of resistance is fully received.”
“Ah,” I sigh. “Our old friend, resistance. Orange spent a lot of time explaining that one. I’m seeing it more clearly now, from what you just said. It’s really about a refusal to accept what is.”
“Indeed. Resistance to Life holds you in illusion, away from reality and the beneficent flow of Source. Paradoxically, it also keeps you from finding death in a conscious way. You can apply this appreciation in every moment of your life to release your shadows: Find and know your own resistance before it finds and devours you.”
I am finally starting to see what she’s describing. I say, “Accepting ‘what is’ means letting go of—that is, not holding onto—my resistance. It’s so simple—but not exactly easy. I often can’t do it. I’ve observed myself at times, caught up in resisting something I know is good for me, and yet not being able to let go of it.”
The tone of her voice indicates she is empathetic with my challenge. She says, “Keep noticing the processes operating within you. This is the way through. It is the ultimate task that you each must accept as your own.
“As I explained in the last chapter, our dialogue in this book explains the process of creation and formation from many different angles, with the aim of assisting readers to understand their own relationship with Life. It arises within the mind as an impression, a movement of forms. But it has its origin much deeper.”
I ask, “Is mere ‘noticing my resistance’ enough to carry me that deep into Source?”
“Yes, it is. Notice and appreciate sincerely, fully, gradually. Feel and embrace your resistance as an ‘old friend’, as you have rightly called it. What ‘stands in your way’ is the portal you know as resistance. It is the path of your return.
“The Life of Source flows out from Oneness and returns again—simultaneously. Oneness and Source open. And all resistance dissolves in the clarity that attends your awakening.”
ⓒ 2014 Robert Lee Potter
CLICK HERE and you will find all the chapters posted from Life of Source. I will be updating each week with new chapters till we reach the end of the book. It will then be available for download from this site. Stay Tuned…