Many of you will know that for some years now, along with my work related to living more consciously, I have been facilitating meditation groups around the world related to death and dying, as well as working individually with people who are dying, with carers, and with those in bereavement. More of this and details about my background appear in the main body of my website so I won’t repeat myself here.
Osho, my meditation master, has spoken extensively on the need for hospitals to provide a special place in which people can die meditatively…
Every hospital should have a special place for people, with a special staff, where people can come, get relaxed and be helped to die beautifully, without any disease, supported by the medical profession (From Unconsciousness to Consciousness).
Death can be made a celebration; you just have to learn how to welcome it, relaxed, peaceful. And in one month’s time, people, friends, can come to see them and meet together. Let them live for one month at least like emperors, so they can leave life with no grudge, with no complaint but only with deep gratitude, thankfulness (Sermons in Stones).
…And [a person] should be taught meditation in this one month, so that he can do meditation while death comes….slowly slowly, side by side with meditation, sleep going deeper. We can change thousands of people’s deaths into enlightenment (Socrates Poisoned Again…).
Not only are many of his people now moving into old age, as is true of the general population some of us dying at a relatively young age, typically, of cancer.
Given that death is inevitable, and that most everyone has issues around dying, it seems to me only intelligent to identify and work with our own individual concerns while we are still able to. For one it might be fear of feeling abandoned, of intimacy, of losing control; for another, a sense of an unfufilled life; for still another, a fear of dying in pain, or alone, and so on. If we have already worked on such issues, when our death is imminent, it does not need to be fraught with anguish and fear but can be an event that we pass through consciously, with grace and even gratitude.
I look at preparation for dying from my experience as a midwife, when I witnessed and performed many deliveries. When we are pregnant we consciously prepare for birth – attending ante-natal classes in order to understand what our bodymind will be going through in the months of pregnancy; to know what activity is helpful, what would not be advisable; to eat the most beneficial foods; and to be educated in how, at the time of labor, we can facilitate the process and minimize pain through knowing when and how to breathe, to push, and not to push. Why would we not, in a similar fashion, prepare for the other major transition in life? – that of dying. After all, at birth every single one of us is already pregnant with our own death (Please see the Articles section on my website, and the sub-section ‘Doing Dying Differently’ for more on this).
Yes, there is a part of dying/death that is mysterious and unknown and will probably always remain so. Yet there are certain knowns about dying/death too, areas that we can consciously explore beforehand. For example, the fact that, however many friends might be around our deathbed, the journey we are embarking on we must do alone; the fact that we must leave behind life as we have known it; must leave behind our identity as a certain personality with a particular body and a unique mind. Those ‘knowns’ can be identified and worked with so that not only are they diminished, but that also, in the process, we actually grow – in understanding, wisdom and maturity.
And for the unknown/unknowable dimension, meditation provides us with the very best preparation, for it is, in many aspects, similar to death. In meditation, we are alone; in meditation we move beyond our identity as a bodymind to relax into the witnessing consciousness; through meditation we can gain an experiential understanding of the natural ebb and flow of existence, and know the grace and let-go that comes with that insight.
While once I would have liked to think that I could die within the buddhafield of the Osho Meditation Resort, in Pune, India, that looks less and less a likely scenario, for a variety of reasons. Yet, I wonder if there isn’t a way in which I and others who feel the same, could be cared for in our last days by fellow meditators – supported in our conscious preparation and journey and knowing that, at our body-leaving, we will be farewelled with love and joy, with music and dance?
It is said that (this is true of Australia and, I presume elsewhere) the medical profession and the church – both known for their conservative approach – zealously guard their grip on the hospice and palliative-care area. Until that changes and we can indeed introduce ‘Death Centres’ into hospitals, as Osho suggests, why not create our own, independent hospice, which would be the prototype of Osho’s vision of dying in a meditative space?
‘The Last Resort’ would be open to anyone who is a meditator, and/or who would like to die with the support of meditators, in tune with Osho’s vision of dying consciously and celebratively. This could include our family and friends, of course.
Where would ‘The Last Resort’ be best situated? I see Europe as the most central continent, and thus accessible for the majority of us. England may be a possibility, and also The Netherlands, as the most liberal of the European countries and also being English-speaking. I envisage a place in the countryside or by the sea, but within reach of public transport.
Friends have come up with suggestions of including an aged-care facility, a guest house, and a crematorium – all great ideas, but I think I’d prefer to go just with the hospice initially. Otherwise the project becomes too overwhelming even to think about!
Ideally, we would buy an existing building/former hospice and adapt it to our needs. Clients would have their own, private, en suite rooms. The hospice could employ local people to take care of areas such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, and gardening, which would help to ensure that the hospice is accepted by the local community, if this were an issue. Sannyasins would fill the positions of administrator, accountant, doctors, palliative care nurses, therapists, musicians and volunteers.
Not only would we be providing a transformative experience for those dying; we as meditators would also have the opportunity for deepening our own practice. As those of us who have been with someone who is dying may know, it is a really a deeply moving and potential experience. As Osho says:
“When somebody is dying and his death is very, very imminent he should be moved to [a] Death Center….a small temple where people who can go deep in meditation should sit around him, should help him to die, and should participate in his being when he disappears into nothing. When somebody disappears into nothing great energy is released. The energy that was there, surrounding him, is released.
“If you are in a silent space around him, you will go on a great trip. No psychedelic can take you there. The man is naturally releasing great energy; if you can absorb that energy, you will also kind of die with him. And you will see the ultimate — the source and the goal, the beginning and the end.
“Death is the point at which knowledge fails, and when knowledge fails, mind fails. And when mind fails, there is a possibility of truth penetrating you” (The Heart Sutra).
I know of the existence of zen hospices and of others’ work in bring a more spiritual orientation to dying. However, Osho’s vision is unique, and I personally would love to die not only with awareness but within the milieu of love, playfulness, joyfulness — and music, of course! — that is so much of what being with Osho is about.
Clearly, this idea is in its first draft, and, equally clearly, I can’t manifest it alone! It can only take off if many people are ready to put their energy into it. From among us we will need people willing to coordinate the project; to provide or help source the funds; to locate/donate a suitable building, or to help in any necessary building and the equipping of it; to take responsibility for the business and administrative aspects, and, of course, the appropriately qualified people wanting to be employed as apppropriately trained doctors and nurses , etc. Being meditators themselves will be the basic requirement for all staff.
I see my own role as being that of just one of many others helping to get the project off the ground. Once it is up and running I would like to be involved in caring for the dying, as well as training others in the role of ‘Transition Midwife” – that is, in learning basic counselling skills and guiding the dying through the process of leaving the body.
Already, two meetings about this proposal are being set up for 2011, when I am in Europe — one in England and the other in The Netherlands, so, watch this space!
If you would like to communicate any ideas about this and/or be added to the list of those who want to be kept in the loop regarding any developments, please email me through the contact portal on my site.