"Death as Your Advisor"
by Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
Copyright 2015, Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
November 2, 2015
Today on this “Day of the Dead” holiday honoring those who are gone but not forgotten, I would like to share a few homespun thoughts with you about living and dying.
While the topic of death is a conversation largely avoided in modern America, the remembrance of deceased ancestors and loved ones is a millennia old tradition amongst diverse cultures around the globe. Moreover, in these turbulent times of worldwide strife and devastating natural disasters, nobody’s lacking for reminders regarding the fragility and impermanence of our mortal existence.
Consequently, with heart-wrenching human misery, despicable violence and senseless bloodshed from near and afar daily flooding our senses, it’s essential we make every effort to direct our focus on the upside of life and—while we’re at it—on the upside of death. Whereas doing so won’t eliminate the downside, it provides perspective that helps balance it. A good starting point is to remind ourselves that every day is a gift, each morning a fresh beginning.
All yesterdays should be yesterdays, all tomorrows should be tomorrows. Sufficient is it to know that the way we lived our yesterday has determined for us our today, and that the way we live our today determines for us our tomorrow. And so it goes throughout our life until the day we “join the majority”.
Death is our eternal companion, always nearby, watching, and ever will be until that fateful moment it taps us upon the shoulder. It’s difficult to feel important or irritable when we remember that death is always stalking us. Indeed, a great deal of pettiness is often dropped and clarity of perspective gained when we catch a glimmer of our own death.
The 19th century Yaqui Indian Warrior and Man of Knowledge Don Juan Matus believed that death is the only wise advisor we have. He emphasized the importance of using our death to keep perspective, yet without sadness, remorse or worrying. Don Juan held that the only deterrent to despair in this short-lived existence is awareness of our impending death, and that this awareness subsequently gives us strength to withstand the duress and pain of our lives and our fears of the unknown.
He further advised that no matter what happens to us, no matter how badly we feel, when things are going wrong, even when we believe ourselves about to be annihilated, we need only turn to our death and ask if this is so. Don Juan insisted your death will say you are wrong, that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you “I haven’t touched you yet.”
What’s more, we must stubbornly refuse to live in fear of death, though it’s perfectly natural to fear what we don’t know. For those possessing faith in an afterlife forever reunited with loved ones on the Other Side, the transition from life to death can be less frightening—and for some, even gently beckoning.
Not knowing what lies beyond the veil is yet another piece in this mystical life of ours puzzle. It’s the final surprise. Sooner or later and altogether conveniently, to unravel the mystery of death one only has to die.
On a personal note, I distinctly recall a huge wave of relief washing over me as a youngster when a kindly soul assured me “Death is like jumping out of an airplane with no parachute, but there’s no need to be frightened, because there’s no earth either.” Whoa. Decades later this otherworldly vision continues to bring me comfort.
What’s certain is that death really is the end of the world as we’ve known it. To live with such unblinking awareness of our death is to live with correspondingly acute awareness of the brevity of our life. Enlisting death as our trusted ally can paradoxically serve to motivate us to make the most of our limited time alive no matter how long we shall live.
Few people live their lives with conscious awareness. Many live hypnotized, going through trance-like motions of safely existing. A life lived unconsciously—or rarely leaving your comfort zone by taking risks, making mistakes and pursuing dreams—forfeits its possibilities for joy and success. And in exchange for what, meager returns of stale sameness and the desperate hope for increased security and safety that will minimize suffering and failure? To call such a reality “life” is to confuse existing with actually living.
Life often requires of us to take leaps of faith and to make the hard choices without having all the facts or guarantees that everything will work out as hoped. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Win some, lose some, live and learn from your mistakes. It’s been noted that mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.
Like most things of real value worth having, you have to make an effort to prosper in life. You must choose to take intelligent risks and avoid taking foolish ones, which of course requires discerning the difference between the two and acting from emotional intelligence and mindfulness versus knee-jerk reaction and impulsiveness.
As a species humans are innately hardwired to be risk takers, pushing ourselves and our limits ever further as we follow our passion for increasing understanding, awareness of and dominion over our world, both within and without. It is our very Nature to expand upon what we know to better ourself, to improve our life and ultimately—for anybody who’s forgotten—to fulfill our own highest potential.
The quickest way for jumpstarting this process is to vigorously shake your soul awake! Many of us have apparently gone to sleep without realizing it. And electronic technology has only exacerbated the problem. We have far too eagerly replaced solid relationships and real experiences with flimsy online imitations to the point of ridiculousness. A person would have to be living in a dream-world to think a virtual “Climb a Tree” app could ever replace the visceral thrill of actually climbing the real thing itself!
Allow me to be a little preachy: Far too much time is wasted both on- and offline that distracts us from what’s happening and what really matters, namely living in the moment versus living vicariously, virtually or mindlessly running on auto-pilot. Alternatively, we must remember what it means to be fully human—time-limited as it is—by living with emotionally intelligent mindful awareness of our imminent demise. It isn’t hard to do.
When all is said and done, humankind’s most sacred duty is to embody goodness benefitting all sentient beings, which at heart consists of manifesting Life, Intelligence, Truth and Love in our thoughts, words, and deeds. There is no higher aim, no vaster problem, no greater purpose, no grander glory. And, in today’s mad-dash-paced world, perhaps no greater challenge.
Mindful awareness requires vigorously disengaging from our hypnotic state, and replacing it with conscious right thinking and action that emancipates us from the bondage of ignorance, fear and distraction. Only thusly unshackled can we ever begin exercising free will to make better choices that bring us more of what we want and less of what we don’t.
No matter how long your life, we are all just passing through. No one lives forever. Life is unapologetically short, and death the irremovable companion travelling with us throughout our lifetime. Here one second—poof!—gone the next.
While it may sound cliché, you never know when your time will be up. Death can come to anyone without warning. At best, life is uncertain and death inescapable. This is what makes death the only wise advisor we have. The evidence speaks for itself: There are no survivors on this earth!
Believe it, accept it, be here now and make a choice and commitment to wake up and mindfully live your life before your death touches you. Make it your habit to live and love like there’s no tomorrow because—while our personal expiration date is as yet unknown and hopefully far-off—it’s an inevitability for every single one of us. Knowing we’re here for only a short while gives us all the more reason to make every act count.
There is no guarantee that you will live another minute.
Let yours be a good life, justly lived and well loved, by taking intelligent risks and by reaching out to others with unconditional love, compassion and understanding. Spend time with those you love, and shower them with hugs and kisses. Bestow the milk of human kindness to strangers in passing through a warm smile or friendly greeting. Never miss a chance to engage in acts of unselfish decency.
Do the things you love. When opportunity knocks and you’re hesitant, thump yourself on the head while asking aloud, “What on earth am I waiting for?” Then push and keep on pushing against any fear or resistance until you break through it.
When you have life you have everything. To live with death as your advisor is to live with great enthusiasm, and most importantly, to authentically connect with people that matter to you. Don’t miss your chance! It will feel so good when you do and feel so bad when you don’t. Circumstances may never again be as favorable or even possible, and life’s too short to live in regret mode. At the risk of belaboring my point, don’t squander your life by living timidly. While it is indeed a risky thing to live deliberately, it’s riskier still to live indecisively.
Make time on this remembrance holiday as well as throughout the year to show respect for your loved ones who walk no longer upon this earth by fondly recalling and praying for them. Take comfort in keeping their cherished memory alive that your love for them will live on always—love truly is eternal.
Why not also give thanks today on this Day of the Dead—and on each and every day upon waking—that you are still here amongst the Living. Say a little prayer of appreciation for all the good in your life. Give thanks for your health, and for the ongoing health, happiness and wellbeing of those you care about deeply. By holding this “attitude of gratitude” everything we have feels all the more precious in this fleeting life of ours.
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
The choice to empower your impending mortality as a trusted advisor is your own to make. While this admittedly unconventional concept may seem counterintuitive to some and outright weird to others, making an ally of your death releases your fullest innate potential for living and loving. Eventually, when the end finally does come, may yours be a “good death”—a seamless, painless and peaceful transition free from fear.
In the interim, it will help to keep in mind that despite appearances natural death is quite harmonious. Happily for us, there is cause to be courageous when facing our inevitable end. As is often noted, every cloud has a silver lining: Though your body dies, your Soul Being lives on, only differently, so it is not really the end of life. We subsequently demonstrate an understanding of this transformation when we begin to view death not as the end of life, but rather as merely the end of the body we briefly inhabited this life.
What’s more, dear brothers and sisters in eternity, we have further good reason to take heart: For in splendid actuality, we are not our body, but beautiful Beings of Light! There is no death for the human soul; there is only the transition from the physical manifestation of an earthy individual to the spiritual. There is something more to you than just your body and mind. Simply put, within each and every one of us exists a higher consciousness that is not subject to death and dissolution. Accordingly, if we are to prevent losing track of our precious, never-ending, other-worldly transcendental lineage, it is imperative that we wake up and remember—
We are immortal souls having a mortal human experience.
The soul, the spirit of God in man, has been completely whole and immortal from the beginning. Moreover, as believed by billions of people around the planet, there is an abundance of evidence supporting the possibility that the soul sojourns through multiple lifetimes and experiences over numerous incarnations on the Wheel of Life, also known as the Wheel of Becoming. The wheel of transmigration turns from spirit to matter, matter to spirit, in cosmic tune with the Infinite Order of the Universe, until at long last we find our way back from whence we came never to be born or die again.
We are all part of the Grand Design. Through the mind of the One, we enter into materiality in the form of flesh-man that carnally dies, decays, and returns to dust so we may again be one with our Maker. Beginning with fertilization in the womb, the cycle of death and rebirth advances through the sequential stages of gestation, birth, growth, maturity, old age, and death leading to renewal. All in Divine Right Timing. In its most positive progression, the evolution of the soul through each transitory episode of physical life brings us nearer and nearer to our Source, leading us to know a harmonious existence of peace and love which—as divinely individuated yet never separated particles of the Whole—has been ours for the having all along.
Mystics for many millennia have been assuring us that when death is viewed properly, namely from the perspective of continuous existence versus complete oblivion, our fear surrounding it subsequently disappears. There is great comfort to be had from knowing that, at our most essential, we are eternal spirits incarnated in ephemeral material form. Plainly put, we are trans-dimensional beings: As we were birthed into the physical realm at the time of new life’s beginning, just so, then, at the time of our departure from the physical plane also are we birthed back into existence on the spiritual plane from which we originated. Thus life goes on in stages on different planes. To hold this perspective simply requires our acceptance that there are states of existence other than what we are experiencing at the moment.
Consequently, as there is no death for consciousness, death is not the end of us but is rather the breath of renewal. Upon dying we release the body and return in spirit back to the real world. Have faith that on the day you free your luminous body by shedding your physical body to "cross over to the other side" into Infinity you will be gloriously free from all the restrictions you have experienced in life. The end of death is simply the beginning of something else: “Death is but the natural process whereby all material forms are thrown into the crucible for reproduction in fresh diversity.” Personally speaking, I am expecting death to be comparably similar to stepping out of a pair of too-tight shoes—an entirely blissful sensation defined by an all pervasive feeling of relief, rapturous delight and infinitely unconstricted freedom.
Similarly, thousands of hospital patients who've had a "near death experience" describe never feeling more alive than upon hearing themselves being pronounced "dead" by a doctor or nurse as their disembodied consciousness "floated" above their lifeless body observing, and later accurately reporting, everything that was happening around them at the time. Many stated that the magnitude of comfort, peace and unconditionally loving joy they felt while dead left them reveling in the lightness of being and newfound out-of-body freedom, and consequently, somewhat reluctant to return to their body having experienced death as a transition into a more—not less—desirable realm of existence. Afterwards, many commonly claimed to have utterly lost their fear of death having personally validated the continuity of existence beyond the grave. Likewise, comparable anecdotal evidence reported from countless near death experiences strongly suggests that the "I" of who we are leaves the body when we die to rejoin our spirit.
Therefore let us be of good cheer! For in as much as we now wondrously realize that our soul is eternal we can begin to readjust our perspective and completely transform our views of our own life and death, and of the lives and deaths of others. Life after death and reincarnation are simply beliefs that the soul is eternal, appearing again at intervals in other physical bodies so that it can continue as an instrument of its own development. Buttressed with this wondrous new understanding of an everlasting spiritual self readies you to fundamentally reprogram your thinking so as to no longer quake when you gaze deep and unblinkingly into the Great Abyss and it gazes right back at you.
It requires only our willingness to let go of and replace our “small picture” limited human expectations with “big picture” unlimited divinely-ordained expectations. It further requires that each of us till the psychic soil between our ears so that the germ cell of this profound “mind shift” can take sprout. In other words, if we are to bring about a deeper awareness in our moment-to-moment earthly experience, we must reintegrate the root of our immortal soul consciousness with the scion of our mortal human consciousness. We are made whole again by no longer seeking direction merely from our limited human senses, but also now from within, thereby permitting us to link up with a field of intelligent energy and unlimited cosmic guidance from on high.
For invariably, it is through communion with our subconscious soul that we are best lead to the taking of right action. Through the subsequent exercise of free will choice to conduct our life in this manner, we learn to practice and become adept at sowing and germinating mindful seeds of right thinking and acting from an inner soul awareness that is in perfect co-creative alignment with divine laws and principles. It is essential to understand that thought is the connecting link between the Infinite and the finite; it is by thinking and acting from our innate spiritual awareness that we trigger the unfolding of our own higher consciousness and learning the way of living harmoniously with our eyes and hearts open with no fear.
Harmony in the world within means the ability to control our thoughts, and to determine for ourselves how any experience is to affect us. Harmony in the world within is the foundation of health, and is essential to all greatness, power, achievement and success. What's more, when we prioritize time spent in productive solitude harmonizing the individual with the Universal—through meditation, prayer, and quiet time in nature—we allow for Universal Mind to reach down into human mind and endow it with new, wonderful and marvelous qualities.
It is an unfortunate reality that we have forgotten who we are, and we have forgotten what we came here for. To awaken from our “spiritual amnesia” requires us to remember that who we really are is a spiritual consciousness beyond the human level, and what we really came here for is to learn the way of love. Thus by living life in conscious awareness of our glorious, perfect, and limitless divine origin, we unify and harmonize our ego-consciousness with our soul's super-consciousness, and in so doing, are best able to fulfill our soul's spiritual agenda, which is to learn, evolve and improve.
Accordingly, it is only when we learn to surrender and willingly realign our present ego-driven self-serving transitory desires with our immortal soul’s in-service-to-all eternal desires that it becomes possible for us to discover our true purpose and greatest happiness in life. Correspondingly, once you recover your soul memory, to say “all things are possible for you” is by its divine nature not an overstatement. It is befitting then that we give thanks and praise to our Maker for this bountiful blessing, as it is only through our personification of this divine awareness that we come to learn what it is to live in a state of grace with dignity and direction. The whole purpose and meaning of life is to evolve ourselves onward and upward, incorporating our mind with our spirit and the one complete Whole, all the while remaining conscious of our own separate individuality. In the glorious end, it is our rightful destiny to realize the Oneness of All and rejoin the One Infinite Creator.
In the process, we learn that when we let go of our fear of dying we can also let go of our fear of living. We do this by blessedly releasing all worry, anxiety, depression—and most importantly—our judgments, which are the ultimate love blockers invariably leading to pain and separation. Once having fully awakened to our true God-Given eternal nature, we evolve to possess and personify a greatly diminished fear-based consciousness and greatly enhanced happiness-based consciousness. We delight in discovering that by living each day with genuine humbleness, and by being less concerned with our own needs than the needs of others, a deeper, fuller, and clearer meaning to our life develops, the better to realize our most cherished hopes and dreams. We walk with a song in our heart and a spring in our step for as far along life’s path that each of us ultimately travels through the valley of the shadow of death.
Fear not the long sleep. Be assured that once you come to unshakably know, accept and understand yourself to be the Light Bodied Immortal Soul you really are, all you can ever possibly lose is your worry and your fear. It is impossible to overemphasize: There is no such thing as death—our true nature is spirit, not body—thus are we eternal. I beseech you to cherish and amplify your spiritual connection to Source for your soul's better development. You are encouraged to embrace your immortality firmly and wholeheartedly, as it is by exercising faith and having positive expectation that you are lead to know the Truth which sets you free!
To summon up the courage and strength to favorably advance your personal emancipation from the fear of dying, simply make up your mind to use your impending death as a catalyst to transform your life and your concepts of death, beginning today. After all, “If not now, when?” There is no future. The future is only a way of talking. What better way to live in the moment with conscious awareness of your impermanence than by honoring and fondly remembering departed family and friends, all the while as you joyously celebrate another day of life amongst the living.
To be sure, nothing could be godlier—or more human.
Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
* Dedicated to Paul R. Allen. Rest in Peace Dear Friend. *
Michael Ra Bouchard, M.A., Ph.D is a professional mental health counselor specializing in sex therapy and marriage counseling for all sex, relationship and intimacy concerns. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 808. 965. 8800
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