I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying – by Stephen & Ondrea Levine. I first read this book about twelve years ago after my then husband, Mike, lost his 18 year old nephew. Mike was attempting to process his tremendous grief and something led him to this book. Upon his recommendation, I read it as soon as he finished it and it has become a staple in my life.
It contains simple truths so profound that the mere act of reading its pages has me experience the limitlessness of who I am. Some lessons, like the one I’m sharing with you today, have turned into personal mantras that float to the surface of my mind at the exact moments I need them most. Lying in bed, pressed against Adrian, the thought crosses my mind, he’s already broken. The gentle reminder allows me to melt into him and really feel him there – strong and warm and alive. It leaves me filled with immense gratitude and love.
I hope it serves you too.
“Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master, In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness? How can we find security when we see that we can’t count on anything being the way we want it to be? The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass which had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it, I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, Of course. When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is and nothing need be otherwise.
When we recognize that, just as that glass, our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, then life becomes precious and we open to it just as it is, in the moment it is occurring. When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead – our children, our mates, our friends – how precious they become. How little fear can interpose, how little doubt can estrange us. When you live your life as though you’re already dead, life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime, a universe unto itself.
When we realize we are already dead, our priorities change, our heart opens, our mind begins to clear of the fog of old holdings and pretendings. We watch all life in transit and what matters becomes instantly apparent: The transmission of love, the letting go of obstacles to understanding, the relinquishment of our grasping, of our hiding from ourselves. Seeing the mercilessness of our self-strangulation, we begin to come gently into the light we share with all beings. Taking each teaching, each loss, each gain, each fear, each joy as it arises and experiencing it fully, life becomes workable. We are no longer “a victim of life.” And then every experience, even the loss of our dearest one, becomes another opportunity for awakening.
If our only spiritual practice were to live as though we were already dead, relating to all we meet, to all we do, as though it were our final moments in the world, what time would there be for old games or falsehoods or posturing? If we lived our life as though we were already dead, as though our children were already dead, how much time would there be for self-protection and the re-creation of ancient mirages? Only love would be appropriate, only the truth.”
-Stephen & Ondrea Levine