In 1993 I experienced major surgery—I was told afterward that I would have been dead in two days if it had not been performed. I remained in the hospital for a month, on IVs, not allowed to eat, hardly able to move, always hooked up to stuff, including several tubes protruding from my belly monitoring fluids. Another larger tube went up my nose and down my throat. My abdomen was somehow stapled back together. My stomach was being continuously pumped. I had a catheter, for God’s sake. Somehow I sensed this wasn’t the greatest shape I had ever been in.
Friends would come for a visit, and I could tell that they assumed I was going through a horrible ordeal. I could see the sympathy in their eyes, which, in fact, I sincerely appreciated. Yet for me there was never any sense of suffering or pain at all, no sense of anything going wrong or anything bad happening.
For the first few days after surgery, I could not remember what I had once thought was so interesting about this world. I knew that there had always been something very vital about this world, but I couldn’t remember what it was. The world as I’d always known it suddenly seemed so very irrelevant to anything in the present moment. I could see that others felt I was experiencing pain and discomfort, even though I could no longer relate to those experiences. They were very far away, a part of someone’s dream.
As I gradually got stronger, I became a bit more grounded than I had been the first couple of days, during which I could not relate to the body or the world at all. As I regained my strength and became more grounded, I started to relate to the body and the physical world more and more, as though being pulled back among old friends I had temporarily forgotten.
The experience gave me a perspective I can never forget. When the physical body became irrelevant for me—which will be true for all of us within a hundred years from now—the outer world was simultaneously no longer relevant. The truth is, most of us would be astonished how irrelevant so many of the things are that capture our interest and attention and seem so important in the moment.
Previously I might have felt it would be interesting to keep up with this world after we leave it, like knowing what’s going on here: what films are winning the awards, who’s going to the Super Bowl, how all our friends and family will continue in their lives, stuff like that.
Once I had the experience of being disassociated from the body, though, the whole physical universe as I had known it became completely irrelevant. I couldn’t even remember what about it had seemed so interesting, so vital somehow, as though life revolved around it.
Okay, I can hear some of you thinking: But what about our loved ones, won’t we be able to keep up with them? Won’t we somehow know what happens to them, what becomes of them?
All those with whom you are in relationship, you already had those relationships subtly, in the astral realms, long before you ever met in the physical realm. We have deep relationships with souls who are not even currently incarnated. Don’t you sometimes dream of souls whom you don’t know in this current life? When you dream of them at night, you experience a subtle contact with them; you have visions of your subtle relationship, which in many cases goes on for several consecutive incarnations, if not forever.
In the end, in my vision of things, we’ll all be singing around the same campfire—“everyone is here; no one is excluded.”
So this is how we ‘keep up’ with loved ones, through our already existing subtle relationship with them. Any true relationship happens primarily on the subtle realm. The physical relationship is simply a reflection of what exists subtly, and is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true relationship.
Therefore death doesn’t take us away from anyone, and birth doesn’t put us any closer to them. The relationship is always of a subtle nature; it is only vaguely related to the bodies, for the purpose of this particular incarnation, or cycle of karma.
Still, we do not necessarily maintain our interest in the physical world following our transition to the subtle realm in the way that we might think we would. I suppose we could remain consciously focused on the physical world if we were really attached to it, but that would be standing still in development. It would be somewhat like remaining focused now on how we were as an 8-year-old—cute, but there are just a lot more expanded directions to take than to be obsessed with a past stage of development.
Our conscious mind, because of its attachment to the past, has not yet caught up with our present state and true development. The mind is always a little behind because it thinks it has to first describe, define, or figure out what really happened in the past, when we could be much freer by simply forgetting about it.
The past led up to this. We wouldn’t be here if it were not for the past leading up to this moment, right now. Yet the awareness of the Truth of the present is much more rewarding and fulfilling than constantly reliving the past merely because that is our habitual approach. Each of us approachs life in our own distinct way. Are we approaching life as we have clearly realized is the greatest way, the most loving and compassionate way, or is our approach merely a habitual pattern that we do without even consciously knowing about it?
It might momentarily be fascinating to see and experience past stages of development, but it would get old very quickly, and we definitely wouldn’t want to live there again. The energy level of the past would seem very slow compared to what we have become accustomed to. We’d soon want to get back to our present life, as it is right now, and right now. In each present moment, we always have a clean slate. Do we want to create a great legacy, beginning now, or do we only wish to constantly repeat all the habits and patterns of the past, not only bringing the past into the present but projecting it into the future as well. Unknowingly, perhaps, we make this choice each moment.
The subtle nature of our life does not die, does not end when we depart this temporary physical temple. There is only a transition from one realm to another, and the transition has more to do with our focus and perspective than with any actual existing reality. We will go from here to a place where we have been all along. We just had this ‘dream’ of a physical incarnation.
Know with full conviction that there is no such thing as ‘death’. No one ever dies, or ceases to exist. Whatever exists now always has existed, and always will. That which apparently has beginnings and endings is a temporary illusion. When the body returns to the elements of the earth, we are still that same One we have always been, and all our various ‘relationships’ still exist in the same way they primarily exist now—subtly.
We never need to clutch or cling to anything in the objective world. When the outer world disappears, we are still here, and we will be aware of this presence to the degree that we remain one with the formless Awareness of Being that is Consciousness itself.
There is no ‘death’ in which anything is lost. The physical world is only a reflection, a mirror, of the subtle world. Nothing happens at the end of this incarnation that will be in any way unpleasant or painful. Nothing is ever lost. What is here is all that exists. Or as the Vishwasara Tantra says, “What is here is also there. What is not here is nowhere.”
I know there is always grief when a loved one passes on. It is among the natural order of things. Never repress this feeling. Allow grief to all come out—crying is very purifying—until you reach a point where it has passed, and suddenly you feel infinitely lighter. Some degree of grief is in everyone’s life; it is as essential as breath for inner growth and developing inner strength.
People come and go. Even if you love them with all your heart, you can still be detached. No particular individual lasts forever. We ourselves are only here for a few moments in the grand scheme of things.
We explore all this in great depth in the lessons of the Course of Training, which is like a handbook for living in this body and this physical world. We never got a ‘how to’ book when it comes to living in this world, an 'instruction manual' to refer to when times seem confusing or bleak. We were kind of just thrown out here, with the assigned task of finding our way home again. There is powerful knowledge, which comes from very ancient times, which show us how to live happily and lovingly in our own life.
This knowledge has always been known by only a few. The reason is not that everyone else is excluded, but simply because they aren’t interested. It is available to all, yet only a few are truly open to receiving it and applying it in their own life--which is much more essential than knowledge alone.
For information about the Course of Training, ‘Living in the Truth of the Present Moment,’ and a free Lesson 1 to glimpse how the Course works, please write to: email@example.com.
The Course is also available in Spanish and French, thanks to some very dedicated people