Tuesday, July 26, 2022

In An Instant

In the twinkling of an eye ...  we shall be changed.

When it comes to seeking the Divine, no other moment of life can compare to the last moment of life. In an instant, so many worldly concerns - money, position, jealousy, envy - all take a back seat to the final event of life. If you find the idea of dying is troublesome, welcome to my club. After all, we're programmed for survival. 
I am not suggesting that anyone should wish for death. If you believe in a higher power you likely also believe, as I do, that life is a gift and contains some purpose. To seek death is to turn away from the gift and the purpose. But death is going to come and, when it does, will we go kicking and screaming, filled with regrets, or will we go serenely into that mystery? Thinking about dying isn't the same as wishing for it, hmm? 

The Chinese novelist Mo Yan is quoted as writing “Where there’s life, death is inevitable. Dying’s easy; it’s living that’s hard. The harder it gets, the stronger the will to live. And the greater the fear of death, the greater the struggle to keep on living.

It seems clear that in those final moments control of our body leaves fairly quickly, so literal kicking or screaming are out. Studies and observations of electrical activity in the brain suggest that there is some time before consciousness leaves after the heart stops, but there is debate on how much time. In that time, can we chose the thoughts that come? I believe so, but if we have never considered what it will mean ahead of time, it seems impossible that we will do anything other than react to the surprise by screaming (internally, one would expect) NO!

I recall several loved ones' deaths, and in each case, they knew that death would come soon. My GrandDad told me that he believed that 'it' would be the same as those times he had been anaesthetized - a quick cessation of all thoughts. I hope that is what he got. 

Seven years ago, considering what my final thoughts might be became very important. I had to make a life choice that would affect many. I asked "Will my final gasps be filled with regret?" I needed to gauge the importance of following my bliss. Was following my heart somehow part of fulfilling my purpose in living? Heavy thoughts indeed, but life-changing.

At any rate, when we go to join the choir eternal, we are ideally situated to finally let go of that 'mist of thought' that was referred to in the previous post. I suspect it will be a little bit like that feeling of relief I get when I wake from dreams of still being a teacher and having piles of marking to do and reports to write with a deadline looming. 

"Oh, wow!  I'm not a teacher anymore ... it was all just a dream!!"

To what extent greeting death will be like waking from a dream might be determined by how attached one is to living and all that goes with it. There are many documented cases of people whose hearts stopped having "near death" experiences. Many completely change their life because of the experience. If we are seeking the Divine, we should probably "prepare to meet our maker". Use some quiet time to contemplate what it will be like when the only thing that still responds to your will is your will. Body still, as though it is detached, with no responsibilities left for you to deal with - no judgements of 'who you are' remaining under your control. Just ... what?

Dare to ask, and dwell on, the question: "When in that final instant all of my ego-centred thoughts and desires are stripped away, who is left?"


  1. I almost tremble to comment on this lovely, thought-provoking post. Once more I feel too 'heavy' for the delicacy required of me, if I am to comment. But how can I not comment?
    Of course, there is so much here, or alluded to here, that is unknown, uncertain, and requiring a huge act of faith. Yet I sense that that faith is demanded of us, because it is the only way through to understanding and wisdom. And I am not strong on faith: I wish it were otherwise.
    It has been said of those with my personality type, that we die thinking we should have done more. And that, perhaps, is why faith is in such short supply, at least for me. With more faith there would be less need to 'do.' Yet I cannot read your words without coming to the conclusion that faith is justified. (Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!)
    In March 2016, you wrote a lovely piece, "A Deeper Self," which seems to find a natural home alongside this current post. Thank you for making my heart, my spirit, lurch once more in wonder and anticipation.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely words Tom.
      That piece, written almost half a lifetime ago has stood the test of time in my heart. Many of the ideas put down in that letter have deepened or strengthened. I sometimes wonder now, who is the real me? In faith, it is that deeper self.

  2. Hi Deanna,
    It seems to me there must be a battle between the mind (acceptance and maybe even serenity in acceptance of death) versus the brain's naturally instinctive will towards survival, except for sudden unexpected death. But in all events, I don’t believe that entanglement dissolves immediately. Rather, I believe that some considerable time is involved in shaking off all the regrets, angst and so forth, additional to allowing time to bid an aching farewell to all that can be experienced (aching as in memories of all that is beautiful in the prior life) before the then purified soul has undergone its preparedness to move into its new realm. Best wishes

    1. Hello Lindsay,

      This is very much what I have in mind for the individual who has not given a great deal of thought, and perhaps meditation, to the subject. By putting oneself into a 'disentangled' state to as great a degree as possible ahead of time, we might be able to shake off all those regrets much more easily when the time comes.

      Here is a video of Jiddu Krishnamurti speaking on the difficulties of considering 'no-thought', which is death. While we know nothing or what is to come with certainty, I find it hard to argue with what he has to say. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWdZINlJEz4

  3. Hello Deanna (and Lindsay),

    Without wishing to try to delve too deeply into a subject which, at the end of the day, is beyond the intellect's ability to "know," I would like to throw out a couple of thoughts for your consideration.

    1. Lindsay, you express the thought that, "some considerable time......." etc.. This seems to imply that 'thoughtful' disentanglement may take place after thought is extinguished. How can that be so?

    2. Is not the pursuance of the mystic path toward union with God, precisely the goal of disentanglement of the soul from the ego-personality? Whilst we may want all those that we love to have the chance to disentangle before it's all finally over, 'wanting' is not the same as 'getting.'

    3. Is it not possible that when the spiritual life is seen as something essentially simple, uncluttered with intellectual (or pseudo-mystical) surmising, something truly wonderful may occur. Entanglement, or its opposite (or degrees of disentanglement), may set the starting conditions for the next phase, but I would suggest that ...... possibly ...... we face a continuum of life, rather than an ending.

  4. Hi Tom & Deanna, .
    To begin as you end Tom indeed I do think it is a continuum of life ( see quote below from Einstein) and agree with most of what you say before except for the time element. Therein I think one can have  many different perspectives. The problem is, as you alluded to, such things go beyond the ceiling of language. Spiritual experiences can’t easily be translated readily into a logical summary, although I will attempt to put forward my ideas as to how I imagine something to be in a spiritual sense. Being in the world covers all there is and can I revert back to one of my favored philosophers and theologians namely Kierkegaard. Here is his summary to answer a few questions before going any further- from memory.
     His first question is what is to be a human being ? 1. Answer :  A human being is spirit: 2  What then is spirit : Answer. the relationship with itself - the self (ego if you will) or our consciousness or how we see ourselves . 3 how do you get that relationship with itself (self) in a relationship with GOD. Answer:  By the (self) being being in balance between the finite and the infinite, freedom and necessity and the present and future. 4 How can you do that! Answer : By making an unconditional commitment to GOD. Some tend to substitute Cause rather than GOD. The cause being the GOOD or the ONE assuming you might identify GOD in that sense without the need to attach dogma. 
    So that commitment represents a work in process confined for time being to our earthly state where our self can transcend nature as in the senses. You might say we move in and out of nature ( to transcend the senses or ego if you will ) as spiritual beings. This work in process is for a purpose that doesn’t abruptly end in death as we continue on without the burden or struggles to shed whatever residue of past memories encroach on the realm we are to enter - varying to those according to where we are in the process. I don't believe memories abruptly cease after death and indeed any regrets as in memories may be shaken off over time, This idea was reinforced following the unexpected death of our daughter. My first unexpected experience whilst walking along the river was so profound it cannot be described. It was strong as in evidencing an after life affirmation so that I remain eternally grateful just as what was a subsequent experience. The third experience was the same except there was a very strong aching sense of departure of all that was beautiful, whilst the final experience was one that elicited the feeling past memories of angst and regents of all of earthly bondage  were all falling upon finally entering the new realm. This was the final experience. This is what was conveyed to me which I choose to believe. It would be nice to think in terms of your uncluttered metaphysics but I don't entirely agree - maybe a lot easier for some. At any rate I trust this provides food for thought, Finally can I end with Einstein, speaking of a friend who passed away, said: Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me.
    That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
    Best wishes  

  5. Lindsay and Tom, I won't address anything written in a point by point way, but instead will write impressions that were created by reading and re-reading your comments.

    Because the topic of the post is the moment of death and thoughts on that subject, I will stay with that, or perhaps dance around it would be better. First, I am convinced that no amount of thought now can prepare us for the truth, and by the truth, I mean God. As has been suggested, God represents the unknowable within a continuum that is life. (How has anything ever been written on this topic and yet so much has been written!?) Yet in the spirit that truth must be simplicity itself! Our ego-centred existence could not be farther, I believe, from that truth. All our struggles, so tied to emotion, are based on a time-dependent process and that is thought. Outside of time, no struggles. Without time there is no place for ego.

    Here is my metaphor, the main impression that was left by reading your comments and letting them work upon me. Imagine a great river with currents and rapids, tumbling along and we are swimming about in the river; not on top of the river, but in it so we know nothing of the shore or the air... we know only the river and our place within it. We feel its current and we are tossed about with others of our kind. Imagine the “aha moment” of being suddenly plucked out of that river to see that our existence is not really about that river at all. Instead we know the truth that we chose to ignore for a while to swim about in time and cause and effect. Like waking from a dream, we quickly move along. Or perhaps another way of describing it, we understand that if we want (and we will want) we can and will dip back into that river or another of an infinity of rivers to play at time, for that is what we are.

    Thank you both for giving me the impetus I needed today.

  6. Both,

    I will choose to pass over Kierkegaard philosophy, because I may be out of my depth there. I would like to comment on the experiences you recall, Lindsay.

    It seems to me that there are topics which the unconscious mind/the Self/God needs to transmit to our ego-consciousness. The manner in which they are communicated, as well as the reason for wishing to make that communication, lies in the province of the communicator ..... God/the Self. It is not for me to challenge or query the reason or the manner in which such communications are made.

    That you choose to believe what those conversations say is, in my opinion, a wise path to follow. (If you can't trust God, who can you trust?) I can only add that it is humbling when someone shares those experiences, and for that I am grateful.

    Wishing you both well.