death

Watching the Clock

Watching the Clock

"As conscious human beings, we know we die, and we therefore know our clock ends on, some level. So time just seems foundational. And I think a lot of the gymnastics that we do as human beings has to do with our relationship to the clock, or lack of a relationship to the clock. We squander time until it’s too late, et cetera. I love looking at the building blocks, the raw material, the irreducibles."

~ B.J. Miller

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

"Healing comes in many guises. We're healed by just the touch of a friend. We're healed by the hug of a child. And healing does not imply that your life is suddenly going to lose all of the struggle, all of the challenge. What it does instead is it strengthens us for what is next. But to be open to healing means to be vulnerable. And I think if you look at me, you know I'm what they would call a vulnerable adult. The cat doesn't even listen to me here. I have no real sense of control anymore."

~ Bruce Kramer

This Primal Commitment

This Primal Commitment

What happens when, just for a moment, we stay with our pain, our fear, our doubt, our discomfort, our grief, our broken heart, even our numbness, without trying to change it, or fix it, or numb ourselves to it, or get rid of it in any way? What happens when, even when we feel like leaving, abandoning the moment for the promise of a future salvation, we stay, sitting with the raw, unfiltered, boundlessly alive life-energy that is simply trying to express right now?

~ Jeff Foster

Poetry Can Help Us Live with Death

"Poetry does seem to be especially good at certain things. For example, we are all going to die. Poetry can help us live with that. Poems are made of words, nothing but words. The particulars in poems are like the particularities, the personalities, that distinguish people from one another. Poems are easy to share, easy to pass on, and when you read a poem, you can imagine someone's speaking to you or for you, maybe even someone far away or someone made up or someone deceased. That's why we can go to poems when we want to remember something or someone, to celebrate or to look beyond death or to say goodbye, and that's one reason poems can seem important, even to people who aren't me, who don't so much live in a world of words."

~ Stephen Burt, from "Why People Need Poetry," TED Talk, June 2013 

See also:

The Story Begins to Live and Breathe

Excerpt from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti

Topiary Park, April 20, 2014Transmutation is what transfiguration and relinquishment make possible. In it, your orientation to life is entirely selfless. It's not that you want to be selfless or you're practicing being selfless: rather you're selfless in the sense of no self. 

For this transition to happen, one has to go through the death of the ego. Certain aspects of the transmutation may occur earlier in our own journey, but the crucifixion or relinquishment must be complete for it to happen in full. At that point, really, the only thing left to do is to be a selfless, benevolent presence in the world—there's really nothing else to do, nothing else that makes sense. Whatever that may look like—and it looks different for different people—that's where the whole process ends up. 

In the Jesus story, this stage is termed the resurrection. Out of death is resurrected a new life, which really means a new orientation. That movement, that long turning from self-orientation to selfless orientation now comes to fruition. This is where the journey culminates for Jesus, and this is where it ultimately culminates for anyone who's taken the journey of awakening.  

The story of Jesus mirrors back the journey of spiritual awakening for anyone who has the eyes to see it or the experience to notice it. I believe this is among the most powerful lenses through which to view the story, because from this perspective the story begins to live and breathe as a metaphor. 

Jesus doesn't live anything out in a small fashion; everything in his story is writ large. This makes it easier for us to see that he's depicting a journey of awakening. We shouldn't expect to live out our own journey in the same fashion and, fortunately, we don't have to, though our journey will certainly have its own challenges and intensity. 

The mystery of the story of Jesus is the same as the mystery of you and me and everyone: we are all God appearing as man and as woman, divine being manifesting as human being. They're actually two sides of the same coin. They're one and the same thing; it's only our minds that separate divinity and humanity. We separate them in our mind and in our experience, but the whole spiritual journey is finally to see that they aren't separate, that they never were separate...

And when you reorient your life toward this realization, then you understand: you so loved the world, you had so much compassion, you had so much love that you poured yourself forth into life, and that pouring forth was your birth. You are here to redeem whatever you encounter in this life, to wake up within everything the deep reality of its divine existence. 

The kingdom of heaven is spread upon earth and men do not see it. When you see this, you shift from being a victim of your life and assigning blame for the tragedy you encounter. The truth, I would suggest, is that you poured yourself willingly into form of infinite love in order to redeem the entirety of this life. When seen from that perspective, all of a sudden life looks different. You stop holding back from life, your inner life or the life around you, because the kingdom of heaven is within and all around you. That's the message of the Jesus story.  


See also: 

It is Enough

Green River, Utah (August 2013) by Paul Kolesnickoff

It is Enough
by Anne Alexander Bingham

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

Let Me Die Living

A Prayer for the Living

by Jeff Foster

Life, 

Break in me whatever needs to be broken.

Fix my hope of ever being fixed. 

Use me. Draw every ounce of creativity out of me. Help me live a radically unique life, forever forging a never-before-trodden path in the forest. 

Show me how to love more deeply than I ever thought possible. 

Whatever I am still turning away from, keep shoving in my face.

Whatever I am still at war with, help me soften towards, relax into, fully embrace. 

Where my heart is still closed, show me a way to open it without violence.

Where I am still holding on, help me let go. 

Give me challenges and struggles and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, if that will bring an even deeper humility and trust in the intelligence of life.

Help me laugh at my own seriousness.

Allow me to find the humour in the dark places.

Show me a profound sense of rest in the midst of the storm.

Don't spare me from the truth. Ever. 

Let gratitude be my guide. 

Let forgiveness be my mantra.

Let this moment be a constant companion. 

Let me see your face in every face. 

Let me feel your warm presence in my own presence. 

Hold me when I stumble. 

Breathe me when I cannot breathe. 

Let me die living, not live dying.

Amen.

See also:

  • Life Without a Centre
  • Foster, J. (2012). The deepest acceptance: Radical awakening in ordinary life. Boulder, Colo: Sounds True. [library, Amazon.com, Sounds True]
  • Foster, J. (2013) Falling in love with where you are: A year of prose and poetry on radically opening up to the pain and joy of life by Jeff Foster [Amazon.com]

There is Always a Gust of Wind Somewhere

There is Always a Gust of Wind Somewhere

"The day my grandfather passed away there was the strongest wind, 
I could feel his gentle hands blowing away from me. 
I knew then they were off to find someone
who needed them more than I did.
On average 1.8 people on earth die every second.
There is always a gust of wind somewhere."

~ Michael Lee

Limitations and Richness of Experience

Sunny Autumn Day, 1892 George Inness (American, 1825-1894)

"I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colors richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colors, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death."

~ Lin Yutang, from My Country and My People

The Living and the Dead

wake from Sternthal Books on Vimeo.

"Filmed at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh, The Wake explores issues of life and death, imprisonment and freedom, and sleep and dynamic reawakening. For this video, Dana Levy released one hundred monarch butterflies and filmed them among the museum’s specimen drawers, cases, and cabinets, creating a haunting tension between the living and the dead."

Changing The World

"So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before."

Joss Whedon, from his commencement address during Wesleyan's181st Commencement Ceremony. 

What It Means To Love You After You Are Dead

From Letters of Note, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012:

In June of 1945, Arline Feynman — high-school sweetheart and wife of the hugely influential physicist, Richard Feynman — passed away after succumbing to tuberculosis. She was 25-years-old. 16 months later, in October of 1946, Richard wrote his late wife the following love letter and sealed it in an envelope. It remained unopened until after his death in 1988. 

(Source: Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman)

October 17, 1946

D’Arline,

I adore you, sweetheart. 

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don't only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you. 

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing. 

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can't I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don't want to be in my way. I'll bet you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I — I don't understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don't want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you. 

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Rich.

PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don't know your new address.

Pre-order the Letters of Note book, out May 2013.