This website has some really good information about conscious dying, including a great list of books related to death and dying. The author has had three experiences of being very near death and having to prepare for death due to a serious heart problem. So she has had two separate experiences of fully preparing for dying and has explored many different spiritual practices, including Buddhism, in her journey toward meeting death. Through this website I was introduced to the concepts of spiritual practice divided into categories of Kenotic practices (self-emptying), Illuminative practices (to illuminate or uplift), Unitive practices (practices that bring union), and Purgative practices (purging, clearing out).
Here is an excerpt from the website: "When we focus on Illuminative work and experiences, we have a tendency toward Spiritual Bypass. We get so good at popping into different states, we rarely stay present to states that are uncomfortable. We detach from our actual experiences in favor of more pleasant encounters. Indeed, we may begin to deny that we have any experiences that are not those of joy, love, equanimity, and peace.
What Ken Wilber and so many other wise teachers have shown is that Illuminative work alone is never enough. Without also learning to fully experience sensations, thoughts, and states that are challenging or distasteful, we are not living into the richness of our humanity.
[Purgative practice] involves the work of experiencing whatever turmoil and trauma may arise on the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional planes of existence. Purgative death work, then, relates to psychologically and spiritually coming to acceptance of our lives and deaths. There are a multitude of Purgative Practices that are invaluable in the work of Conscious Death and Dying. They include processes related to the forgiveness of self and others; working with our places of identification; encountering all the myriad emotional responses we have to death and dying; and healing our relationships with ourselves, others, the past, and the current situation in which we find ourselves...
...When the dying process was presented as a spectrum of potential experiences rather than as two opposite and non-intersecting possibilities, there still seemed to be a simplistic approach. For the most part, the literature indicated that the anguish and pain were phases that dying persons passed through (encompassed by Kübler-Ross’ denial, anger, bargaining, and depression stages) on the way to arriving at a peaceful state (acceptance) – as though peace were the prize at the end of a very long ordeal. These models seemed to present the work of dying as all Purgative up until the eventual achievement of some Illuminative state.
But this had not been my experience at all. During both dying processes, there were Purgative movement as well as Illuminative state changes. My first death journey included many more Illuminative experiences than did my second death journey. But none of this was anything I could control. The movements were just what was occurring.
What if, I began to wonder, we just experienced different aspects of dying and living at different times? I began to conceptualize death as a vast, wild landscape. Its features are varied, and every walk through it will be different. So my first expedition into this wilderness contained more time in the peaceful portions of the landscape, while my second was greatly spent in the rough sections of this landscape.
I had judged myself harshly for finding that I was in such fierce, wild, difficult pieces of the landscape. I questioned what had happened – what I had done wrong – to lead me into these challenges when I thought I had attained a peaceful way of dying before.
What I came to know is that as humans we will continue to collect experiences, emotions, thoughts, and energetic debris throughout our living process – until our final breath. So we cannot actually learn how to die peacefully or earn good deaths. What we can do is to approach each moment of living and dying with openness to whatever it brings – be it Illuminative states that feel like bliss or the hard work of Purgation."
A forum for discussing aspects of dying and death. Please be mindful when posting in this section.
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