recently, an excerpt from a retreat held on maui, hawai’i was made available on you tube. it was entitled “no fear, no death”. the teachers who held this retreat are some of the luminaries of not only the spiritual world, but the world of end-of-life care….ram dass, roshi joan halifax, frank ostaseski, and robert thurman.
in the question and answer period, following meditation and teaching, one woman asked about pain management in the process of dying and its effect on consciousness. the current desire for dying seems to be to die “naturally, fully conscious”. after frank made it quite clear that death without pain management is usually pretty horrid, roshi related an experience she had with the dalai lama. she asked him the same question.
his reply was, “no one should die in pain. mercy and compassion tell you to alleviate pain. pain does not help anyone die well.”
then he said, “subtle consciousness is not effected at all by opioids.”
there was a sigh of relief among the retreat attendees, and in me as well. if his holiness says it’s okay to have pain relief, i have his blessing on whatever pair management i might choose and so do all those i care about! phew!
then joan added another question that occurred to her in her conversation with the dalai lama. why is it important to have a spiritual practice now?
her answer (not his holiness’s) is this: to cultivate the internal architecture that conduces to the moment of liberation, the moment of merging with the clear light of death, with less interference.
there are many benefits to spiritual practice….this one might be the most compelling as we move into elderhood. to approach that movement without impediment, without conflict, without hinderance may be the greatest gift of a life well lived, fully re-claimed and joyfully accepted. these are among the benefits of the spiritual aspect of elderhood.