August 19, 2016

The Grateful Dead - A Follow Up

I received a great question on my Grateful Dead post that I'd like to follow up on here.
Could you clarify what you mean 'The more dead you are in life, the more alive you’ll be after death', is this related to cessation and/or no self? Do you have any fear of death? What is best to emphasize in practice to achieve this?
Yes, it’s definitely related to cessation and no self. But just about any practice should be a good preparation for death if you develop it to an industrial strength level of "CC&E". 

Sometimes it's useful to distinguish death in the sense of no longer existing, from death in the sense of going through the dying process. Noting Gone would probably be a good preparation for death in the sense of no longer existing. Noting Gone leads to an appreciation of the paradoxical richness of Nothing. A life of noting Gone is a life of intimacy with the richness of death. That's what I meant by the somewhat enigmatic claim: "the more dead you are during life, the more alive you'll be after death." 

Regarding, preparation for the dying process, familiarity with restful states and familiarity with expansion and contraction can be helpful. Basically, when a baby comes into the world, it does so through the peristalsis of its mother's womb. That peristalsis represents the expansion and contraction that pervades of all of nature. When we pass out of existence, those same polar forces grind away the somethingness of self and world. If things go well, you’ll re-identify with those forces, and become your formless parent—thus, in a sense, “sidestepping” your personal demise. Not everyone is fortunate enough to experience the dying process that way. On the other hand, almost anyone can experience the dying process in terms of ever-deepening states of pleasant rest: visual rest (darkness or bright light), auditory rest (mental talk gets wiped away, the ear defocuses), and body rest (you're so exhausted that you don't want to move even a tiny bit. This can induce a continuous and profound global relaxation). When I'm asked to guide someone through the dying process, I typically have them focus on See Rest, Hear Rest, Feel Rest, and it almost always works. Of course, I'm usually working with people who already have a meditation practice, but not inevitably. I've also had success using rest states to facilitate the passing of non-meditators.

Am I afraid of death? All I can say is this: I have no doubt that if I had not done all those decades of practice, I would be quite concerned on a daily basis with the prospect of my own mortality (I turned 72 a few days ago). That doesn't seem to be happening much. To be honest, I have no idea of what my reaction will be when the end comes. However I am quite confident that some part of me will know exactly what to do, regardless of what may arise. 


  1. Thank you Shinzen, that was very enlightening.

  2. This is a burning issue for us all regardless of our age-one cannot predict when one will die and under what circumstances.

    I wanted to add that in my meditation of "Gone", the repeated experience of falling into timeless awareness and rematerializing (coming back into the self), builds a certain level of emotional trust, equanimity and even, dare I say, intimacy with non-existence. It's like going to meet an old dear friend after a long separation.

  3. 謝謝真善老師!這一簡明扼要的回覆,將我引進了您新建立的體系。我會認真學習,認真練習。您一直是我未能謀面但影響最大的靜修老師。衷心祝願您一切好!

  4. Thank you so much, Shinzen, for this clear and vivid report. As I near the 3/4-century mark, it offers me a much-needed confirmation (in the face of reactions of puzzlement and mistaken impressions of morbidity from some people around me) for my having finally reached a point in life, where I grok on a gut-level, the meaning of the Sufi saying, "Die before death!", which used to puzzle me so much.
    I resonate very much with the experience of Panos L. ... for me, it's been a long, long trip of deconstructing my fear-based, conditioned notions around the word "nothingness", which began to perturb me in childhood, and which many years of studying Western philosophy did nothing to cut through. "Note Gone", "Do Nothing" (and related practices) have shown me that what I was so fearfully running from, and what I was so ardently seeking were the same... beyond words, thought, or image, of course .. but the best approximation I know of is Sat-Chit-Ananda...

  5. Many thanks for your answer to my question Shinzen, really illuminating and helpful. You talk about 'how negative emotions can be no problem' on your YouTube talks. Presumably this process of 'complete experience' of emotion ie in the whole body and flowing so that it is 'not a problem' could be achieved for those of us who still have fear around this matter? Meaning you might not completely be free from fear but you are ok experiencing the fear/terror? Therefore, one would practice 'focus in' and 'focus on flow' with the emotional reaction to death?


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