Tag Archives: Death

Death and Dying

Death and Dying                                            Henry Scott Holland (1847 – 1918)

Henry Scott Holland was professor of Divinity at Oxford University

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no differentials into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant; it is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a neglible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.

Buddha Picture

Death from “The Prophet” Kahlil Gibran

 The poem on Death has a last line added from a dharma talk presented by Bhante Kovida at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community on September 12, 2015

Then Almitra spoke, saying, we should ask now of Death.

And he said: “You 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 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 laid upon him in honor. 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?

Bhante Kovida and Ian at Pine Gate

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.

For life and death are one as the oceans and rivers are one.

AWAKENING IN OUR TIMES: THE TALE OF MY BOOK

Our industrial growth civilization is a system devouring itself; dislocating the organic structures of Mother Earth to the point that all species – not just our own – are at risk. It has taken us to the edge of a dangerous precipice. From there we stare into the abyss of climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, nuclear energy breakdown, resource wars, cyberbullying, terrorism and anarchy.
These issues are making civilization vulnerable to extinction. I believe that our culture needs to awaken spiritually in order to ensure survival. Our world has become an unpredictable beast that we fail to work with intelligently. We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter.” My new book “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” illuminates issues that will impact the human race for generations. The book follows my spiritual journey as I travel across the globe throughout the course of two lifetimes.

The darkness before us does offer an opportunity, a chance to remake ourselves by transforming our minds. Instead of being eaten up by the abyss we can choose to Awaken Spiritually, for that transforms the one thing we can control – our minds. It often seems that we are waiting for someone to step up for us – a Mandela, Ghandi or Martin Luther King. But they are dead and gone. So it is up to you, up to me to step up and awaken spiritually. That’s what my book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers is about – though I was indeed very slow over four centuries to accept what I have just intimated.

There are two main characters that open the book in 18th century Arizona– Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker. When the reader encounters Trailing Sky Six Feathers, my muse from the past, they encounter a powerful, relentless woman who transforms my life in reality in the 21st century, not in historical fiction. She has been described as one of the most powerful women in modern Canadian Literature. Eagle Speaker is her husband and also my transformation vehicle. He dies cradled in her arms in a medicine wheel in the year 1777. As he takes his last breath Trailing Sky whispers to him:
“I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

Light Beam at the centre of the Medicine Wheel

KEY POINTS IN THE STORY
– HERO’S JOURNEY OVER FOUR CENTURIES
– PLANETARY CARE – 18TH CENTURY RENEWAL, 21ST CENTURY ACTIVISM
– EARTH WISDOM OF THE ELDERS/ SHAMANIC HEALING
– FUTURE GENERATIONS
– GURU TRAINING IN INDIA/ NDE/TRANSFORMATION
– REMEMBERING; PAST LIFE COLLIDING WITH PRESENT LIFE/ RESISTANCE
– TRANSFORMATION OF KARMA/CONSCIOUSNESS
– VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF LOVE STORY THRO CENTURIES – not a Harlequin Romance!

Ian in India

This exciting Hero’s Journey is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. The story told shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In this book I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century. These

We follow my journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. Readers will travel the pages as I learn to embrace The Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a South Western Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777. She vows to find me to complete my purpose despite resistance from my highly intellectual mind in this lifetime.
My severe and challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhance my process of remembering, while Trailing Sky waits patiently from the distant past. I learn how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness and Carl Jung’s psychology. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed, the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past. This book caps my long-term fascination with consciousness.

In the next blog I will draw on a recent sterling Review of this work.

Death and Dying

In my family and culture there is very little discussion about death and dying, though as a child I did have an intuitive understanding. When my grandfather died I felt him as a tangible presence when he was in his coffin. I quietly whispered to this gracious being: “Go to Heaven now grandpa.” I also remember at his wake how upset I became by my relatives drinking, arguing and being disrespectful to one another. In tears I sought out my grandmother and complained that everyone was making it hard for my grandpa to go to Heaven. She listened carefully to me and wiped my tears away. Then walked into the living room of her house and with quiet authority asked everyone to go home. It was much later in life, once I was exposed to Buddhist teachings on death and dying, that I realized I was not such a crazy kid after all. I had cared for my grandfather’s consciousness after his physical death. Much later in life, I knew that preparation for death was also training for life, though I did not always pay attention to this insight.

I was intrigued by the opportunity for liberation at the time of death, though I could see clearly that my ego and habits were obstacles in the way. I did want to be able to merge my consciousness at the time of death with what the Sufis call “the great magnificence.” Or if I got confused and fearful at the time of death – to receive guidance to do so. I felt that if my death is aware, then in the final state of becoming, my consciousness would take a form that would serve Mother Earth and all sentient beings. I liked this idea of recycling – it appealed to the ecologist within me! This retraining was done fitfully, not in a consistent manner until just before I left for India. There, the preparation became a daily practice of being aware of universal consciousness totally prepared to merge with my pitifully weak and not-so-awakened-mind. My leap of faith was that these understandings about death and dying were all in my mind. This meant that in everyday living I could use my mind to take the steps to prepare for that final moment of merging with the wisdom mind of the universe and do this while I was alive. Perhaps the “alive” bit is the whole point!

Ian in India

During my training as a guru in India I became seriously ill, but was not surprised by the lack of panic. I clearly remember Saturday, December 21, 1996 as if it were yesterday. On that day I let go of all attachments to my body and surrendered to a sense of freedom never before experienced. Throughout the day and evening I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus from cover to cover, practicing meditations that spoke to me. I was living in a small ashram in the city of Mumbai – reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category, yet felt their grace close at hand. One humorous manifestation of that grace occurred one morning when I woke up to find a visiting Swami sitting by my bedside. He smiled broadly and helped me to sit up, then surprised me with his words: “We are all so happy that you have decided to die in India with us, if indeed you are to die. And we will be even happier if you live.” The Swami just beamed love and understanding to me. My reply, as best I remember, was to just say: “Me too!” He made me some tea with herbs, provided a blessing and then left. When I went to sleep that Saturday night I was content and happy. Diary entries chart the journey.

Thay Bowing (2)

CAROLYN’S DIARY
December 12, 1996:
Ian called. He is so sick that he can hardly talk and his voice is unrecognizable. A cold chill ran down my spine. He says he’s had surgery and that his systems are all crashing, one by one. But he’s not afraid. I believe he is not afraid of dying if that is what’s happening. What can I do? My first instinct is to go to India, to be with him, to care for him, but no, he says this is a journey he must go through alone. I am so worried. All I can do is surround him with light and love. And I pray, I pray that God will care for him, make him well and keep him safe. Dad is in the hospital dying from heart disease, two open-heart surgeries in the last month. The doctors are amazed that he is still living. I wonder if he is afraid to die. I’m being forced to look at death, my fears, at my attachments. I cry. Dad has been ill for many years and I know he will not likely survive this ordeal, but Ian. Ian is too young. His life work is not done. He still has so much to offer.

Ian speaks about the possibility of death with such calm. He’s not afraid, but I am. I don’t want to lose him. I am not prepared to let him go. Over the phone from India, Ian teaches me about no birth and no death, that we continue living in all that we touch, simply a different manifestation than our physical bodies. But this is too difficult for me to accept at the moment. I am attached. I do not want to let him go. Ian directs me to the teachings on impermanence and encourages me to meditate on the Buddha’s Five Remembrances: being of the nature to grow old, the nature to become ill, the nature to die, the nature for all things to change and knowing that we will be separated from those we hold dear and that our only true possessions are the consequences of our actions.

MY DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 20, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Feel weaker than ever this morning. Could hardly make it from my bed to the bathroom. Hope the saints who have passed through this little ashram are casting a protective eye over me. Perhaps they can cheer up Chotolal, the Nepali cook here, who has become quite anxious, especially as I have not had the energy or inclination to eat the special dishes he prepares. He is watching me write in my diary, so I will change hands and write with my left hand so he can laugh and feel less anxious about me. It worked!

Why have I become so ill? All my bodily systems have gone off line. Is there some major purification going on in my body, is there something I do not see? What lessons are there? Or are my days drawing to a close in the silence of this ashram? My blood tests from the hospital show that I am low and deficient in just about every category and the medications only make me feel worse. So many questions and worries yet they do not seem totally important. I ask them then they fade away. It is a bit strange. A few days ago, I collapsed and passed out while at dinner at Madhuma’s house. I know that she and her family would take me in, yet this saint’s refuge is where I feel most comfortable right now. The quiet and simplicity of the place speaks to me. I guess it allows me to prepare for death.
Have been in an almost constant state of meditation for weeks now. A deep quiet silence. Making entries in this diary is almost an interruption. Yesterday, Tom and Bev phoned from Tucson in the States and it was wonderful to talk to them. They sent prayers from the desert. Another friend, Barbara, from Michigan also phoned. She tunes into me very closely and was sufficiently alarmed to offer to fly to Mumbai and take me back to the States to get well in her home. Their love and care is very moving, but I know that whatever is to happen is to be here in India.

It was not easy to communicate this to Carolyn, but I do believe she understands. My prayer is that she does not suffer unduly. Have sent Chotolal to buy some cards and stamps for me. The cards are beautifully hand painted on pipal leaves with pictures of the Buddha, Krishna dancing and other such scenes. Want to make sure I finish my Christmas list. Sending Christmas cards to friends and loved ones. Feel such a calm about all this that would normally surprise the heck out of me. The calm is just there, sitting with me, just fine.
I know there is a distinct possibility I will not live beyond Christmas and want to send out a Christmas message from India:“Blessings and Love from Ian.” Writing the cards has exhausted me, but I feel satisfied and full, mission accomplished. Chotolal brought in a package of mail from Canada: letters and cards from family and friends, a framed photograph of Carolyn, my dearest friend and companion. Made me very happy, also made me cry as I thought of friends I may not see again. Yet they were strange tears, not full of sorrow or anything, just tears as I thought of loving friends.

I keep falling asleep very quietly then waking up very quietly. Sleep is like a light breeze that seems to visit now and then. Ate a little bit of dinner to allay Chotolal’s anxiety, but it is my supply of rice malt and vitamin C that is keeping me going. Chotolal placed some fruit and water on the table by my bed, then left to spend the next day with Nepali friends in another part of the city, taking my pile of Christmas cards to post. I am enjoying the silence and solitude, now that he has left. It is about nine o’clock in the evening and I am drifting off to sleep on gentle wings.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 21, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Waking up was easy, getting up was a struggle but did that in stages. The quiet and silence inside the ashram is quite palpable and almost visible. I remembered my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman. Had a dream about her during the night, but do not recall all the details. I do remember that she told me to construct a mental medicine wheel around me and include all my spiritual ancestors. Did that and feel an incredible constellation of energies, like millions of guardian angels from everywhere.

Took some fruit and returned to my book of meditations and began to read slowly, stopping frequently to close my eyes and feel the words. Have no sense of time or space today, as each meditation seems to move me with its own measure and carry me along. Feel such a deepening in my heart, all the way inside my body. Aware that there is no fear or panic, just a simple and happy acceptance. That is all that is there. I have never experienced anything like this. Have no thought of anything and feel deeply content for no apparent reason. Is this surrender? Peace with God? No flashing lights, visitations, or visions, only a quiet surrender and being with the inevitability of it all, whatever “THAT” is.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 22, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
I woke up this morning, heard two crows saying hello from the tree outside the window. Feel so happy to be alive. Chotolal is singing in the kitchen and rattling his pots and pans, so I will celebrate this new day with a little breakfast. That will make us both very happy. A clear insight that this “death” is a spiritual one, as is the “rebirth.” I feel completely new this morning, as though I have been rewired and plugged into sockets with a bigger voltage. Part of my preparation to continue moving along the path of understanding.

Four Poems

Four Poems
Short Bio of Ian Prattis
http://www.ianprattis.com
Zen Teacher, Author, Editor, Professor Emeritus. Spiritual Warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice. Ian lives in Ottawa, Canada and offers public talks and retreats around the world. Ian encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the world may be renewed. Founder of Friends for Peace: http://www.friendsforpeace.ca

Ancient Tree in Winter

Ancient Tree in Winter,
where did you come from?
Now trapped,
cleft by rocks at river’s edge.

Water eddies carve your shape.
Ice mires your branches,
snow creeps fingers across the river
as your body disappears with warm days.
Decaying sculpture of existence.

No death here, no birth,
Just your splendid continuation.
A stand for ducks preening feathers,
No less.

Did you once stand tall
in a soft Quebec valley,
host to birds, small animals,
insects and whispering breeze?
Were you alone on a high bluff
shading thundering rapids
that pulled you to their embrace?

What felled you,
so that you now lie here
Trapped.
Cleft by rocks
exquisite beauty of my river walk.

River Walk

Lament For A Mariner

The sea is very thin this day
that Archie Ruag has gone.
Master mariner, graceful navigator,
wise teacher of ocean mystery.
No more to grace the ocean’s ships
returned to whence he came.

My sons at eleven years and ten
children in men’s mourning
saw him laid to rest
in my place.
Storms and hail swept the cemetery
and their small frames
grew in maturing
of Archie’s dying.

And I sit here in Canada
writing, grieving,
Knowing the sea is very thin this day
that Archie Ruag has gone.
I saw him last, pale and weary
with calm before his death.
His spirit surrounded by antiseptic ward,
but not beleaguered.

He knows I was not equal
to his dying.
So he spoke gently to me
of ships
and men at sea.
And moorings
safe to guard our boats
from winter’s cruelty.
And so, in this way
did he gently rebuke
my lack of courage
in his dying.
So that I may have strength
in my own time
of death.

This is known
to senses awry with grief’s knife.
The tears of my cheeks
on a rainswept street
a meditation
on the knowing of him.

Yet I miss him.
An anchor gone from my seasons
of the sea.

The sea is very thin this day
That Archie Ruag has gone.

Vietnam War Memorial

Gaunt with grief:
Motionless:
Stilled, Silenced:
Cold December day:
Grey and bleak.

I could not move:
Stunned:
Frozen in Time:
Unbelieving:
Damn it all!
Damn!
It!
All!

It was not my war
don’t you know?
They were not my people
don’t you see?
Do I protest too much?

Name engraved black marble slabs
rising from the earth
sear into my soul.
Burning deep to feel the pain,
of so many deaths, such futility.
Ball of fire flames my chest,
chills the marrow of my bones.

Subterranean edifice hurts me awake,
transforms deep memories
for my own kind.
Fellow Humans.

Americans,
Vietnamese,
All peoples
caught in the sinister web
of dark and deadly shadows
that lurk in all of us:
Hate, Greed and Power.

I circle the profanity of war,
nerve center of our world.
Grimly aware thought:
Our world must be transformed:
Our world must be changed:

And we must do it.
Transforming ourselves
then others in swift urgency.
Else the memoirs
of our civilization
are no more than
Monuments To The Dead.

Our Dead:
Yours
And
Mine.

Weaving

Let me share it –

This symphony of autumn color,
cascading melody from a sky
pastel grey and fiery red.
Descant to the dancing tones of
a painted forest
cooled by lush evergreens.
Sensual beauty,
rhapsody of forest and sunset sky
fused as a golden sheen.
Caught in a still lake
waiting with patience
Beyond time and space,
Waiting
to reflect this moment of
splendor –

Weaving.

Let me share it.

Autumn Sunset