Death as an Advisor

Our first moment of conscious awareness sets the mood for our entire lives.  How we manage that mood, is the key to our spiritual growth and development.  This first moment is something that crushes in upon us at a very early age.  For me it was July 19th 1967.  This moment was the moment that I knew that I was I… and the opposing point to that, that I knew I would not be I forever.  The counterpoint of this-and-that see-sawed back and forth in my little brain so rapidly that the distinction is barely there upon my recall, yet it informs and cross-forms my whole being.  And whether we like to admit it or not, it does the same to and for every human alive.  The timing may be different and the response in that moment is as varied as the stars in the sky, but it happens to every person alive.  We know that we are, and that we will not be, at least eventually.


This emergency in our being causes a cascade of other events to follow in rapid succession.  First and most often, we run scared to death of death in a direction of comfort and consolation.  For me, and for some years this was true, it was my teddy bear that I grasped in that moment and its repetition when it came up.  I knew I would be okay so long as Teddy was there with me throughout my life.  I was a small boy, of course, and as my consciousness grew eventually Teddy could no longer be the crutch… we all turn to other things.   We begin to build our world around our feelings and thoughts.  We begin to adopt the perceptions of others, the stories of others to fill in the space between the thought awareness of our own being and the annihilation of our beingness, and that canyon that separates us into this-and-that, becomes the territory of our world… It becomes our assembled reality.  The hard line between them is the emergent ego which maintains the safety of itself, alive and aware as separate from all that is… and is not. 

The spiritual warrior gazes deep into this conundrum of conscious awareness.  The spiritual warrior stares in the face of that existential moment of first feeling-thought-being.  The spiritual warrior accepts that he will not be as much as he has always been… he faces his death and makes death an advisor.  When we say this, we are not saying that we defeat death… no there is no way to defeat our ultimate death.  What we are saying is we face it in every moment of our lives.  And we meet life with the conquest of awareness and freedom. 

One of my favorite images provided by one of the great teachers of this is that of a train.  When we are young we are just an engine moving down the tracks.  We can’t see that far ahead, but we are faced forward.  But we grow and suddenly are tall enough to look out the window to the front and become aware that there down the tracks is our death… it is inevitable.  It stands there and is a constant rolling force in our lives and assaulting us in a very personal way every moment.  So we begin to collect things, ideas, stories in essence, cars to attach to our train to buffer the constant assault of death.   The train gets longer as we grow older.  And eventually we create a caboose with a great little platform on it that has a chair.  From that chair, most of us sit and look back over our lives and marvel in wrapped attention and wonder at the great person we are/were and what we have touched and controlled in our lives.  We could have a mile of experiences, stories and stuff between the place our ego sets itself up to be constantly happy and the engine of our lives barreling down the tracks. 

For the spiritual warrior, we begin our practice by incorporating a simple mantra, “I take responsibility for my death.”  By doing so we start to move from the caboose and wander through the cars towards the engine.   The spiritual warrior as he walks through each cars in the train, begins to loosen each car, each story, each solid perception, each repetitive pattern of life and releases the cars to the abyss of time behind him.  And as he does, the engine moves more quickly, moves more smoothly along the tracks.  There comes a time when the last moments of this process bring us face to face with the first moments of the process…The doorway in is the doorway out of the trail of cars.  He leaps across the gap from the first car, dedicated to those first terrifying and fear filled moments into the engine.  He stares face front at the tracks as the lead in front of him and his death.

We make death our advisor….

You see, for me, the volumes of stories, the entrancement of the mythologies, religions, science, philosophies and the like are all in the cabins that are between the engine and the caboose.  And we hold to these illusions, all, with a viciousness of a dog on a bone.  There is so little truth, ultimately to the aspects of all the stories, they are variations of perception of the same answer to the same problem, we are going to die…. We are going to cease to be. 

People spend volumes of time and energy trying to escape this very moment every moment of their lives.  They spend volumes of words talking themselves into believing all sorts of myths about life, death, reincarnation, heaven, the afterlife, the one before this… etc…. yet few look squarely at all of this and realize that most of these are input programs and viruses from the processes of life, others, culture, our families, and those who have come before trying to put a salve on the fear.  It is so easy to submit to the external stories from the others as the right answer… it is more difficult to question all the assumptions in silence and face that all of our stories about these things that they may be false, which does not make them unreal.   It takes the courage of the strongest heart to come up at the end of all of the stories and realize they are just that, stories of this-and-that… to fill in the spaces between the engine and the caboose.

Yet those that ride in the front of the train, with the engine well developed and facing forward do so with the real vision of now.  Those that see ahead through managing the awareness and holding death as an advisor are not afraid, they are confident and clear.  Their clarity brings depth and awareness.   They are practicing the fluidity and joy of dancing a life of energy and being within the framework of body and life.  And that when the time comes they will face forward and leap with the same joy practiced in life…. Holding nothing, no assumptions, no burdens, no regrets. 

There are two truths that constantly make me aware… the first is that I am I… the second is, I will not be I…..  The third is like unto each of these… We all cross the burning waters when we die.  Imperminence is the greatest truth there is.  We may as well live in the face of it and leap into the depths of it free.


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