At some point in our lives, we all may have to inhabit that peculiar bubble of time where we’re called upon to witness the passage of a life. It’s possibly the most difficult, but most essential, thing we have to do—showing up for an event we dread and knowing how to conduct ourselves through this unmistakably sacred time.
A lot of odd feelings may get kicked up when we’re called upon to be caregivers, or to be taken care of. Feelings like powerlessness and blame, or even resentment and anger at the “unfairness” of it all. But really, it is the fairest part of Life, that moment when we must come to terms with mortality.
Intuitively, we know that we must be there for that—that we must surrender into our circumstances, experience our grief, and rise above our self-centered feelings. Our feelings are, after all, just feelings. They are directing us to our truths, but they aren’t necessarily the truth themselves.
It’s just hard to find your footing, to find your proper place at that time, suspended in that sort of grace. But here’s what you can always do to face the pain, to put your conflicting feelings in their proper place and make your role and purpose clear and comfortable: Push everything else aside, and join your heart to Love. Within the fundamental understanding that there is no death, Love will always provide you intuitively with sure sanity, support, purpose, and direction.
Spiritual Medicine from One Being to Another
Compassionate identification with one another is our connection to that healing power as part of the circuit— the circular, mutual, spiritual agreement between the person who needs the healing most and the person who has the chance to bring it to them. The truth is that everyone needs the healing, and so it’s that identification we experience with one another that is the real key to supplying the aid and comfort—the “spiritual medicine”—that can only be passed from one being to another.
We are the vehicles of this powerful spiritual energy. Like waterwheels, as we collect the energy of Love and compassion in our lives, Life brings us around into position to pour it out for another. Meanwhile, what might be considered one of Life’s most painful episodes is really the opportunity to provide one of its greatest rewards—the fulfillment of that most sacred agreement that we’ve made with each other, somewhere, someplace in time.
When we willingly (or even sometimes not so willingly) take part in this eternal cycle of caring, I think we become intuitively aware of the invisible spiritual machinery at work in the world and in our lives here on this planet. As so many revered spiritual texts have told us, giving—being of service to another, setting aside all selfish concerns we may naturally have—gives us more of Life’s precious intangible rewards than anything else possibly can. Healing and comfort, and—here it is again—Love. And it works both ways—to care and to be cared for.
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Connecting to the Divine Magic of Love, Life, and Laughter
The Universe (God, if you will) suspends us in this bubble of grace at those times, especially at the end of one or another’s life, when all materiality fades into insignificance and the pure spirit owns us completely and irrevocably. We are connected to the divine magic of Love and Life when we bear witness to that transition of the spirit out of the painful body, and back into that joyful light of being and bliss.
Now, remember your experiences when your friends were sick and appeared to be “on their last legs”? Think of how the others around you must be feeling if it’s you who are there now. That’s always been an undeniably difficult situation for anyone to handle. And what is it that always makes difficult situations go more easily? Why, laughter, of course. We all know that there is categorically no time when humor isn’t a very welcome addition . . . a godsend, in fact.
Certainly dying isn’t generally thought of as being very funny. In fact, no one (except maybe a stand-up comedian) is really allowed to be funny about it, with the exception of the one who’s actually doing it. Then it can be as funny as you want to make it. And if you’re prone to pulling a leg now and then, you’ve got a big advantage at a time like that—the element of surprise.
If it is you who are dying, believe me, no one is expecting you to be funny, so maybe you can do the unexpected. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t lighten things up a little. And if it’s meant for someone else’s benefit, the same is true again: light-heartedness allows more light to enter into any dark situation.
Have you ever found yourself just totally “losing it” right at a very serious moment, and busting out in hilarious laughter? It feels great, even though it can be so wrong. Lots of times, it’s those “serious” moments that need busting open the most! It may always be so right . . . when it’s so wrong.
Saying Au Revoir with Style
Lots of people send you flowers when you’re sick. Why not do the unexpected? Send them flowers first, with a card that says: “Thank you for being the best friend a person could ever have!” Or, “You have improved my life so much—whether I wanted you to or not.” Or, “It makes me saddest to think that I will still have more hair than you.”
Say au revoir with a little style. A little originality. It’s not the time to forget your manners, but it’s also not the time to forget what has made you love each other all along. Besides, think of what inspiration others will get from your positive spirit, and what a nice fare-thee-well it’ll be—and of all the nice things they’ll say afterward if it’s you who’s shuffling off this mortal coil.
If you’ve still got some clumsy situation left dangling— not really a grudge, so to speak, but maybe a friend borrowing something kind of big (like a kayak, for example) and not returning it—drop your friend a note letting him or her off the hook. Something like this (whether it’s true or not):
I lent you my kayak, which is fine. Don’t worry about it. In fact, I only ever used it a couple of times—so I’d like you to keep it, and put it to good use. It always seemed a little too heavy to me. Blessings to you, my friend! See you down river!
Now is Always A Good Time To Be Generous
Now is always a good time to be generous with everything—your stuff, your humor, your spirit, your Love. And especially the things you don’t need anymore. Give to your family. Give to friends, or to strangers. Give to someone who really needs it. Give to someone who maybe doesn’t need it at all. I mean, who needs it? Just give, as a token of your sincere esteem, and as a nod to the ever-reincarnating spirit of recycling.
Being especially magnanimous has always been a nice way to say hello, or goodbye. Or au revoir. Or auf wiedersehen. Or hasta la vista. You’ll notice that, in many languages, saying goodbye is never really saying goodbye at all—it’s more like “until the next time,” or “when we meet again.” It’s as if we all knew it already.
Open-heartedness Is Especially Important
We’ve all experienced moments of spontaneous open-heartedness—when one of our kids makes us extremely proud; while experiencing a particularly transcendent piece of music; when seeing a great big dog allow a tiny kitten to fall asleep on its head. That’s the feeling I’m talking about.
It’s the sensation you get when your thoughts instantly turn off and your heart wells up instinctively with Love and compassion. We suddenly occupy a place within ourselves where we automatically allow Life to be simply what it is. An incredibly easy place of complete tolerance, acceptance, willingness, and compassion. There’s joy there—and no place for resentment, or envy, or fear. Without even thinking, we find ourselves empowered by Love. The trick is to sustain that feeling, and to try to make it our primary state of being.
Exercise for Opening Your Heart
While I’m not usually big on exercises, here’s an exercise for opening your heart that you can revisit to help keep it open:
Stand up and, in an imaginary way (please), grab the seam right over your solar plexus with both hands and open up your chest as if you were opening a great coat.
Now breathe out and let all the energy of your heart pour out!
Then breathe in and let everything external that’s full of beauty and light and sadness enter.
Now keep breathing, and try to stay breathing for as long as you can.
That’s the only physical exercise in the book, so you can sit back down.
Making Open-heartedness Our Way Of Life
When we make open-heartedness our way of life, our lives expand and overlap in that fourth-dimensional way, no matter how much time we have left together. We can co-own our Love, our sadness, and our hopes with everyone and everything at once. We realize a new kind of mixing-together, a new identification with life.
Even formerly small and emotionally confined lives become huge and joyful and celebratory. They can grow to contain all those we’ve loved, all those we may love, and all the Life that we share with every person and every creature we know—or even those we don’t know. Because, when we’re completely open-hearted, we can know and understand everyone and everything.
Entering into the most difficult passages of Life becomes a whole new basket of eggs when we enter into them willingly and open-heartedly. Because, when we expand our heart energy, our compassionate consciousness expands as well, and we can easily connect solidly to that precious, focused power of Love—the kind we naturally want to share when we only have a little time remaining together.
Life, writ even larger, is clearly much too big a thing for this one little bubble-life of ours to contain. We can only be contained by it, now and forever-more. Once we know that, we begin to occupy the “fourth dimension,” where we will continue to live with our loved ones—to love them, to be guided by them, to live in their hearts, and to have them live in ours.
©2014 by Robert Kopecky. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
About the Author
Robert Kopecky is an Emmy nominated art director. He designed the credits for Showtime's Weeds, and he art directs the PBS children's show Word World. He contributes to Evolver.net, NewBuddhist.com, TheMindfulWord, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Sue Pike, the Animal Talker (SuePikeEnergy.com). Visit him at www.robertkopecky.blogspot.com/.
Watch a video with Robert: How to Survive Life (and Death) - Namaste Bookshop, NYC