“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool…because almost everything -all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” (Steve Jobs)
Famous or infamous, rich or poor, we all assume a dream life shortly after our birth. We live the life of our dreams – of our minds’ imagination – until we don’t. In the inevitable course of time – whatever the stuff of our dreams, they end with the death of the dreamer. But that’s not the end of things; death is a portal that conducts us from our known and sensed “world” back home to that unknown realm we in fact only left in our dreams.
Some of us have the great good fortune to have our dreams interrupted while we yet live in our body/mind. In Bible-speak, perhaps we’re graced to not only be part of “the many” that “are called” but also to become “the few” that “are chosen” – chosen by Grace, and not through any choice or effort of our own egoic making. Some few of us come to see while we’re alive that life is not so much a discovering through conditioned experience, as it is an uncovering through direct, unfiltered observation. An uncovering of this constant moment and the content of it. A revealing, not a concealing, of reality.
And as the veil is pulled all the way back, we come into contact with a lot of resistance, a lot of self-will. And that willfulness sets us up for a life time of struggle with “preferences and denials” as Walt Whitman put it in 1865. “This is not happening!”… is the root of all suffering in our life.
When we stop believing our dream-life, we start seeing the facts of life. And when we do, it’s impossible to miss all the love and compassion. And part of the love we find in all life includes the suffering we see and experience in it. That embracing and acceptance is compassion, a Greek word meaning “to suffer with”. We no longer seek peace as a comfort, as an escape. Indeed, comfort is not the real peace we seek. Peace has no idea about, or need for, comfort.
Ultimate peace is the same for the living and the dead – it’s the complete ending of the mind-manufactured resistance to what actually, factually, is. We can know this real non-dual peace while we live, or not. In any case, death is the end of the dualizing mind. Nondual life, full of beauty, love and oneness, remains when the dust of our dream-life settles out. And the key to living life as it presents itself, is trust. Or more accurately, trusting.
Trusting is not a belief, not a faith. It is the total acceptance of uncertainty and unknowing…attended with the grace of a certain real “knowing” about who we are and what this is.
(The following excerpt is relevant here; it’s from my book “FADING IN THE LIGHT…Nonduality Insights on Living and Dying” It’s about how “Aging in peace happens when we rest in the light of Aware Living”)
Living and dying in time.
Just as we cannot talk of old age before living it – it’s too early – we cannot talk of death before dying it – it’s too late! This much can be said in advance of both: we will age and die as we lived, just as in traveling, the next village will be the same as the last one we passed through, if only our body/mind was engaged. So it must be– more of the same. More of the same baggage – Samsonite or Gucci – carried into our twilight whether we’re rich or poor.
But let’s suppose that there are two kinds of life we can live: the material life or the spiritual one. In fact, we cannot live a life that is not composed, in some measure, of both. That’s because we are both! And it is in Time that we may discover what life is, and that the living of it is not of our making, only the experiencing of it. Even there, the experiences we have will be determined by our childhood environmental and cultural conditioning. So we will live the life we think is “me” and “mine”.
Fortunately for some, that life gets interrupted by an unwelcome mercy! That’s when good old, hard Reality collides mightily with our personal illusions about how we think things should be. That’s when we find out our little ship is running against the wind and waves of life as it is. Several “course corrections” are then demanded! Ones that leave us bloodied and battered on the rocks of the harbor from which we originally set sail!
The fog lifts, the sun rises, life goes on. We are again, finally, at home in the still waters of being.
And Time and Death has finally, truly, “lost its’ dominion.”
The stuff of dreams.
Turning again back to our dream-life, what can be said about the stuff our dreams are made of? For some, like me, dreams are mind manufactured stuff – vaporware! – and not of much real interest…but… they can be watched with awareness. What interests us here in this little exploration, is the watcher of the dreams.
Mostly, we believe in our dreams, night and day varieties included. We think and feel they’re all about us – our hopes and…our dreams! No wonder then, that hope/dreams are like hoop-dreams! They vanish like Thoreau’s thoughts:
“Those sparrows too, are thoughts I have. They come and go; they flit by quickly on their migrations, uttering only a faint “chirp”…they will be gone directly without leaving me a feather.”
Our dreams may be studied and recorded, but one thing’s certain, no matter the content – they don’t last. What seems to last about dreams is the residue that remains in our daily activities; they shape our attitudes and expectations about our lives and how we interpret life around us. Dreams, like thoughts, shape our experience. It’s useful to remember though, that our interpreted experiences are just that, and not real. How quickly we forget…how soon we substitute the reality of what is happening with our ideas about it! Not that anything is wrong here of course. It’s just that some of us wake up one sunny or fogey morning and wonder if we’ve been dreaming our life away. (And in a way, we have…but that’s another exploration for another day!)
We see that those dreams are not only local – not just in my head, but also regional and national and international! And celestial too…in our head! Indeed, dreams are sub-conscious cultural collections of tribal values forged and transmitted through generations of culturally acceptable and accepted thoughts and feelings.
But as we’ve noted, some of us – some sooner, some later, some when they die, perhaps – get this insight into the ways mind/dreams seem to alter, but do not change, life as it actually is.
And then there’s an easing off of a sole reliance on the mind, senses and dreams to tell us what’s really happening .
We begin to see between our thoughts and dreams; to glimpse what is actual and true in this still silence of existence; to re-cognize that which Is.
And to truly rest in peace.
BTW, According to his sister who was at his bedside, Steve Jobs last words were: “O wow, O wow, O wow”…