My father passed away first and let’s just say that he did not go quietly into the night. He had not yet fulfilled his destiny of becoming king of the world and quite frankly, he was a little apprehensive about dying. Towards the end, he sought comfort in his childhood religion although it was a religion that he had cursed from the time he was ten years old because he felt that it was a primary contributor to the early passing of his mother. In his last few days, he was never fully conscious but his face and body contorted into what I can only describe as a man trying to desperately hold on to something that had already slipped away. When he did finally pass, his body remained frozen in that horrific position.
On the other hand, the experience with my mother was the polar opposite. She called all five of her children to her bedside and although she had lost the ability to speak above a whisper, we sat around laughing as we told stories about our experiences growing up together. When Mom had something to add, she would pull one of us close to her, whisper something and then ask for it to be repeated to the group. After she pulled me over, I took advantage of the situation and told my siblings that she just wanted to say once and for all that I had always been her favorite. Just then I felt that all too familiar slap upside the back of my head and we all laughed together one last time. I had to fly home that evening and the next morning at work, my sister called to tell me that mom had fallen asleep and peacefully drifted away before morning. Unlike my father, my mother had found her peace prior to her departure.
Simple you say? To which I reply, “oh contraire Mon frère!” The reality is that as a society, we are conditioned from an early age to be terrified of the only processes that can bring us to peace. For instance, my dear friend and mentor, Martha Beck, recently told me about a study in which subjects were put in a room and told to sit for fifteen minutes in silence. They were given the option to sit and do nothing at all or to push a button that would deliver a painful electric shock. Almost every person in the study shocked themselves, many repeatedly. One man shocked himself over 190 times rather than just sit with his thoughts.
The good news is that all it takes to override all of those years of societal brainwashing is practice, practice, practice. First, find yourself a “sit spot” (perhaps a place with a view of the outdoors where you know you won’t be disturbed), then inhale and exhale deeply several times. Notice your breath and practice clearing your mind of all the chatter. It’s alright if you’re only able to maintain the silence for just a few minutes in the beginning. Soon you’ll find yourself drifting away into a world where language does not exist and you are cradled in peace. Make this a daily practice and I assure you that eventually it will become a cherished ritual.
I believe that the greatest gift we can give to the world is to realize our own personal peace within and help guide others to find theirs.
I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. How about you Dude?