Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finding New Life in Dreams of Death

When I was a child and I was having a difficult time going to sleep- usually because my parents were arguing and I was frightened, sure I was at fault and trying to figure out a way to “fix” it- I would imagine myself held in the giant hand of the Sunday School God I had been taught was always watching over and caring for me. 

Years later, the image of a bearded, grey-haired old man sitting in the clouds lost any real meaning for me. I was more interested in living deeply than ascending into cloud cover, and the idea that the divine was just like us but Bigger and More (and male) didn’t make much sense to me. I was aware of a Presence within and around me, but for many years the term “God” felt, as Martin Buber wrote, like an “over-burdened word." As I expanded my ways of thinking and speaking about the Presence I experienced, I used terms like the Great Mystery, the Sacred Wholeness, Awareness, and the divine. Gradually the term “God” became more neutral for me, a word that could point to all of this and to that which is simply beyond our ability to articulate.

I offer this as context for a dream I recently had. I had awoken in the middle of the night and was having a hard time getting back to sleep, so I had started to say the prayers I use as my daily practice- a set of twenty-two names for the ineffable that is both transcendent and immanent. In the midst of these prayers, as I started to slowly move across the threshold of dreams, I heard a voice say “Rest,” in a way that made my whole body gently vibrate as if every cell was a small bell picking up and resonating with the tone and meaning of the word, releasing me into a deep sleep.

As I felt myself fall into a warm, comforting darkness, I thought, “This is what dying will be like- like effortlessly letting go and falling into God’s hand.”

Of course, I don’t know what death will be like and honestly, I’ve never been too concerned about it. I’ve heard Buddhist teachers talk about practicing for our death by being mindful in our daily lives so we will not miss the transformation available at the time of our death. My infinite curiosity about life and spirit mean I'd love to be as conscious as is humanly possible just to see what happens in that moment of transition when it comes. But more importantly, I am drawn to practices that help me deepen my awareness of and participation in the life I have here and now.

So, I like the idea of practicing to be awake for that moment of transition by relaxing into the embrace of the divine on a daily basis, by doing what I can and letting go of the rest so I can live with my heart open and my spirit renewed.

And I like the idea of keeping one part of my attention on my breath to cultivate awareness as I tumble gently into the hand of God at the end of each day.

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. Dear Oriah,
    I have been privileged to be with three people as they made the transition from life and it did appear to be a letting go and, in one case, a relaxing into something else....thanks for the reminder.

  2. paying attention to my breathe as I fall asleep at the end of each day - especially when it doesn't seem to be coming easy .... is my most favourite way of falling asleep, something rather delicious about it. many thanks for sharing your thoughts x

  3. Thank you Oriah... for reminding me why I am here! and to give up the fight!! It's so exhausting, the fight with life and death. My heart wants to burst! Love you.

  4. Thank you! Oriah...for reminding me why I
    am here and to give up the fight!! It's so exhausting this fight with life and death. My heart wants to burst! Love You