How Can I Prepare?

It occurs to me that there are at least two ways I could be unprepared for my own death; and perhaps I should try a little harder to work on them now, in my present, embodied life.

One: newly dead, I might be unaware that anything has changed and just go on imagining that I am still alive in an old, familiar world.

Two: I might notice that I’ve died but feel so much regret for the loss of what has been swept away, that I ignore the possibilities of the new reality that is presenting itself to me.

The possibility that I simply wouldn’t notice that I’ve died, as strange as that might seem, is a state of mind that I’ve been strengthening here on Earth for many years. Frequently, in the middle of some intentional activity such as meditating or reading a book, I lose myself in a fantasy and only come back to my earlier intention many minutes later. It seems reasonable to wonder whether, after I die and have no physical landing strip to touch back down on, I could get lost in a daydream for a very long time. (The film “Sixth Sense” presents this situation).

The other way that the survival of consciousness after death might find itself curtailed by the way I am living my present life on Earth, is that I will notice that I am dead but feel a great sense of loss for the embodied life that will then have ended. Grief can be like that. We can feel that we have suffered a loss that can never be replaced with anything as remotely valuable.

When I worked with people with Multiple Sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s Disease–all grieving in their own ways for the life they had before–I noticed that some remained involved with life as much as their changed circumstances made possible, while others seemed to feel that their future had been taken away from them.

I imagine my best preparation for the time when my body will die is to be fully embodied in my present life. If I appreciate my present embodiment, then–although I may miss that life when it is over–I will be more likely to have developed the capacity to notice and appreciate whatever arises in its place. If I honestly grieve my losses now, while I am living in this world that is destined for dust and ashes, and don’t retreat into fantasies in which nothing ever changes, then maybe I will be able to bid a peaceful farewell to this present world.

But it isn’t easy to feel at peace with what is happening in our world. Looking around, it feels that a force determined to tear down the decency of our natural concerns–in preference for opportunistic bargains of convenience–is gaining confidence in itself; daring to present the rewards of unbridled self-interest as a legitimate objective for practical people to pursue. But if that is how we live in this world, what will we face when the sea wall of embodiment—which now allows us to take our own journeys and pursue our own objectives–gives way and we find ourselves abandoned in the sea, with no arms to dogpaddle back to the only shore we recognize?

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