Saturday, October 23, 2010

Keeping Your Death in the Front Seat

maintaining constant awareness of death, awareness practices
I remember when I first read Carlos Casteneda years ago, I was struck by his teacher’s advice to always remember that death was hovering nearby. "How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?” Don Juan had said to Casteneda. “An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you."

It sometimes strikes me as an utter amazement that we skip through life completely oblivious to the ticking clock that lives within every cell of our bodies. Our daily dramas feel to us like endless plays that will continue into eternity, and so we involve ourselves in them with unbridled passion and pathos. Imagine how different our attitude might be if every time we got upset, stressed, or angry, a neon sign appeared right in front of our noses flashing the message, “Ten years, 267 days, and 37 minutes to go before returning to oblivion.”

Realizing that the ride will soon be over puts everything in perspective. When we embrace the fact that at any moment the lights might go out, that every second of our lives we are riding a moving sidewalk that ends at Station Death no matter what we do, and that we are all on that same moving sidewalk together, it sure pushes the question of what is really important up in the queue.

There is much noise in the New Age about being “in the moment” because “this moment is all we have.” The reality though, at least as far as I can tell, is that we don’t even “have” this moment, because every moment slips away the second it arrives. We own nothing. Again, the sidewalk is moving, moving, and we are built to self-destruct. So I would say that all we really can have is awareness of the movement of the sidewalk, and that is a great gift. We also can have an understanding that the end is always approaching us, which, too, can be a magnificent blessing, because it can free us from those entrapping moments where the drama of small and transient things leads us away from wisdom.

To me, the ultimate spiritual practice is to keep awareness of death at the forefront of consciousness, to remain exquisitely aware of the fact that we are renters and not owners on this planet and that the lease will expire, and to live with that sober recognition at all moments. And also, to know at a cellular level that everybody else is in the same boat, that we really and truly are sisters and brothers in this regard, and that pride and shame are utterly silly given this truth.

If the above words resonate for you, here are two practices that might help keep you in awareness:

Ask yourself periodically, throughout the day, “What am I?”

At least once a day, imagine yourself completely gone from the earth, your consciousness completely eradicated, with nothing left to do, to worry about, to accomplish, or fear. Rest in the feeling of deep peace this brings.

Many blessings,
Hiyaguha Cohen
The Life-Change Coach

Check out my website at

No comments: