As someone who has spent over a decade of my life deeply depressed, I have contemplated death for many, many hours on many dark nights. In the face of suicide attempts, I have tried to end my life, to no avail – not once, not twice, but three times. At the WakeUp Festival in 2013, I attended Jeff Foster’s workshops (I had no idea who he was) and I finally embodied the truth of his words. The light bulb was permanently turned on in my mind, heart and soul. It had been flickering in the year’s prior through the readings of many other spiritual teachers (i.e. Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, Eckhart Tolle, Cheryl Richardson, etc). I never understood people who were afraid of death….afraid of dying. I desperately wanted that. I don’t think I began living until I was 35….and even then, depression was a constant friend, a familiar face, a place of comfort. It has been my process for the last 15 years to learn to not only love life, but to love myself. I am not afraid of death but I no longer invite it into my life every night when I fall asleep. My evening & morning prayers have shifted from “Please God, take me in my sleep” and “Oh God, not another day” to “Thank you God for the gift of sleep” and “Oh God, it IS another day – Yeah!”. 40 years in the making that transition was. Thank you Jeff Foster your words below really moved me.- Dr. Chris
“THE BEAUTY OF GOODBYES BY JEFF FOSTER
Your family members will die. Your partner, your friends, your mother, your father, even your precious children. Your own body will cease to function, and this could happen sooner rather than later. We want to turn from this fact, try to not think about it, call the topic ‘depressing’ or ‘negative’ or ‘too dark’. Lighten up, we say, desperately attempting to banish endings – as if they were enemies – from our consciousness, burying in mud the pain, the sadness, the longings, the fears, the dread of eternity, distracting ourselves with the business of the day, and platitudes, and ‘positive thinking’, and religions rooted in fear and second-hand promises, and a refusal to face nature and her ancient ways. We struggle to control our lives even more fiercely, and exhaust ourselves in trying to save ourselves.
For lurking underneath our frivolity, our distractions, our attempts to control the Uncontrollable, the anxiety still rumbles, the ancient fears of the deep, the spectre of loss, the certainty of the passing of things, often when we least expect it, or want it, or trust it, or are ready. But as all the great spiritual teachers throughout the ages have reminded us, death is a part of the great cycle of life, and impermanence is built into the very core of our human experience, and nothing is certain except uncertainty, nothing is really promised except ‘what is’, and we ignore the cycle at our peril. Everything is burning, as the Buddha taught, and even Christ looked death and decay in the eye, and to a lesser or greater extent, we all must contemplate death in order to value life, to feel fully alive, to know our place in the vastness of the cosmos.
We avoid the contemplation of death really to avoid our own heartbreak. But to allow our hearts to break, to soften them, to sink deeply into the knowing that everything will fall, everything will pass, everything will crumble, can be the great portal to awakening. We simply stop taking everything for granted. We stop living in ‘tomorrow’ and turn towards the living day. We stop seeking our happiness in the future, clinging to the promises of others, and begin to break open into a bigger happiness that is rooted in presence, and truth, and allows for the coming but also the going of things, that accepts the little deaths as they happen each day, the disappointments, the losses, the shattered expectations, the goodbyes. The Unexpected becomes our friend, a constant companion. We break open into bitter-sweetness, into fragility and utter vulnerability, into the gift of every moment, of every encounter with a friend, a lover, a stranger.
Every moment is rendered sacred, holy, because it could be the last one. That is not depressing to the heart, but liberating, nourishing. Because now you are free, free to really live, and love, and give yourself fully to existence.
Every instant of contact with a partner, a friend, a mother, a father, a beloved child, is seen to be infinite, eternal. We allow our hearts to break as they open today, taking loss into the bigness of love, holding each other close as we walk our paths, learning to cherish our physicality even though it is burning, ephemeral, ending even as it begins. As Eckhart Tolle reminds us, even the Sun will die.
Everything is an illusion, and illusion does not mean ‘unreal’ but ‘transient’, passing in our presence, unable to be held for long, and therefore loveable as it is. Through looking death in the eyes, we discover a happiness that is not dependent on form, and begin to lose our basic fear of living. We find God – the presence of love, light, awareness, eternity – in the midst of our ‘ordinary’ days, through the gains and the losses, the pleasure and the heartache, the sadness and the most profound joys of this crazy, beautiful human experience.
True love holds within it the contemplation of the loss of the beloved, as every true hello contains its own goodbye, as the sky holds the stars.
“I love you, friend, and I won’t always be around in this form, and neither will you, but we are here together, now…”