Practices for Living, Dying, and Living Again
You are going to die someday.
But don’t worry! You’ve done it before. And there’s a very good chance you’ll do it again.
There are few things in this universe more mysterious, more frightening, or more maddening than death. Every cell in our body tells us to reject death, to push it out of our consciousness, to rage with every ounce of our being against the dying of the light. Which makes it all the more painful, horrifying, and confusing when death inevitably touches our lives, whether it’s through the death of a loved one or having to confront our own mortality.
But you don’t need to be afraid of your death. In fact, there are are are things you can do right now to help you overcome your fear and recognize that your death is not something to dread, but something you can actually look forward to.
When you die, your innate brilliance and perfection will shine forth more brilliantly than ever before.
Okay, I’m Dead is a 30-part exploration of conscious dying, offering a comprehensive guide to the many stages of the death and dying process. Based largely upon the timeless teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Okay, I’m Dead includes a series of discussions and guided meditations to help you:
- Consciously prepare for your own death.
- Relate gracefully to all that will happen to you physically and mentally as you die.
- Recognize the astounding spiritual opportunities that will arise for you during this time.
- Help others better navigate the dying and post-death experiences, allowing you to assist your loved ones as they make this precious transition as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
With every breath you take, someone in the world dies. We are forever walking with death. We don’t know when we’ll meet, but we do know that it is forever just behind our shoulder, marching slowly but unyieldingly toward us, getting closer no matter where we go. And we know it will eventually find each and every one of us.
What will you do when it finds you? Will you be prepared?
“Practice dying.“ This was Plato’s famous final lesson to his disciples, given just before his own death — a truly timeless instruction, one that has been echoed countless times from era to era, culture to culture, throughout every major spiritual tradition. But what does it mean to practice dying? As Ken Wilber puts it:
“All spiritual practice is a rehearsal—and at its best, an enactment—of death. As the mystics put it, ‘If you die before you die, then when you die, you won’t die.’ In other words, if right now you die to the separate-self sense, and discover instead your real Self which is the entire Kosmos at large, then the death of this particular bodymind is but a leaf falling from the eternal tree that you are.
Meditation is to practice that death right now, and right now, and right now, by resting in the timeless Witness and dis-identifying with the finite, objective, mortal self that can be seen as an object. In the empty Witness, in the great Unborn, there is no death—not because you live forever in time—you will not—but because you discover the timelessness of this eternal moment, which never enters the stream of time in the first place. When you are resting in the great Unborn, standing free as the empty Witness, death changes nothing essential.“
See, these aren’t just practices for dying. They are practices for living. They are practices to help you awaken more fully, to live more consciously, and to love more completely. It just so happens that the qualities of an awakened life are the exact same qualities that will help ensure that your death will be as painless, meaningful, and free of regrets as it possibly can be.
We all hope for a good death. This will help you prepare for a great one.
Whether you are new to spiritual practice or a long-time seasoned practitioner, this program will help you live better, love better, and die better.
Okay, I’m Dead serves as a wonderful introductory crash-course to the spiritual life, and the foundational guided meditations included are all you need to begin and sustain your own daily practice. At the same time, there is no application or expression of your spiritual practice more important or more advanced than this. It’s sort of like “spiritual kindergarten” and “spiritual grad school”, all in one.
Basically, this program is for everyone who has a heartbeat.
Because someday, you won’t.
Cycles-within-cycles: The gearworks of existence.
In the West we often conceive of life as something like a straight line, terminating on one end with our birth and on the other with our death, maybe with a heaven above and a hell below, or else surrounded on all sides by oblivion.
But the Tibetans hold a somewhat different view. They tend to see life not as a straight line, but rather as a full circle where birth and death actually connect with each other. Within that circle we can find several other “miniature cycles” that themselves reflect this overall circuit of life and death — your 24-hour sleep cycle, your ongoing breathing cycle, and your moment-to-moment awareness as it cycles from one thought to the next. Each of these “mini-cycles” are holographic reflections of the overall birth/death cycle, and any one can reveal a tremendous amount of insight about the others.
Which means that, whether you know it or not, you’ve been preparing yourself every single day of your life. Every time you go to sleep at night you experience a dress-rehearsal for death — first there is a dissolution of your physical body, and you are left with your mental dream body, which then dissolves into empty silent awareness. Then you wake up the next morning, and the cycle begins all over again. So it is with life and death, the Tibetans maintain.
Tibetan Buddhism offers an elegant and deeply intuitive view of life and death, one that shares an incredible amount of common-sense symmetry with our own day-to-day experiences. It is a view that is attractive for a great many people, and, more importantly, is one that can be confirmed for yourself within the laboratory of your own experience, without needing to subscribe to any particular set of beliefs or interpretations of reality. You might be amazed how compatible the perspectives and teachings contained within this program are with any spiritual path or belief system, and the guided meditations will help you explore, expand, and verify these teachings for yourself.
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About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.