When asked if there is life after death, Swami Kriyananda stated, “There is no life anywhere that is not life! There can’t be death because it is all God’s consciousness. The soul never dies. Our fear of death is often an extension of our fear of life.” Many of us are afraid of losing our identity at the time of death. Swami told us that the soul is a unique aspect of the Divine, and that we will eventually merge into the Infinite, but we will still know our uniqueness.
I’m not sure that my uniqueness in relation to the Universe will be as important to me at my time of death as, “Where is my next breath coming from? How do I deal with this chronic pain? Will my loved ones be all right without me? Have I been a good person?” All these are relevant questions that anyone who is dying, or is caring for a dying person, may wish to know.
If people are fortunate enough to have the help of someone trained in hospice care working with them during this challenging time, they can be supported and guided through these difficult questions. There is an old saying that, “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” I believe that as we approach the finiteness of our existence it is quite natural to seek meaning in and around our lives.
St. Paul said, “I die daily.” In a matter of speaking we die and are resurrected with each breath. This is good news! We get lots of “do-overs!” Life and death are part of the ongoing continuum of our existence. By spending time in the silence of meditation we are slowly able to look at the hard questions of life, and find our answers. They can’t be anyone else’s answers. They have to be ours, or else we live in confusion and misunderstanding.
Paramhasa Yogananda taught that the most important thing we can do is to love.
We can feel love in our hearts, and the love given to us by others. It is through the experience of silence that we can feel a deep sense of love, and at times, a deep sense of joy.
This deep sense of love, joy, acceptance, and connectedness is what we all wish to come to know. It is ours now if we can silence the monkey-mind enough to hear Spirit say, “All is love.”
Meditation is a form of dying. We let go of that which is holding us back. We let go of the body by relaxing and breathing. We let go of the monkey-mind, and the ego, through the breath. We may even experience breathlessness for a time. You see, meditation is the practice of dying itself!
Meditation is also about living life to the fullest. We have to let go of so much before we can really experience living. It is one of the greatest gifts I have received working in hospice — the gift of life. After seeing so many people die, it becomes clear that many died with the regret of not having lived their lives fully.
I once heard a story about a man who was on hospice care. He had been a heroin addict for much of his life. When asked if he believed in reincarnation, he answered that he wasn’t sure. He was then asked what he thought he might reincarnate as? He replied that if he was coming back, he wanted to come back as who he currently was, because maybe next time he would get it right!
We don’t have to wait until next time to get it right. We can “die” now in meditation and be reborn with our next breath.
Hanuman (Kent Baughman) is a registered nurse and is the manager of Ananda House, an assisted living home near Portland, OR.