Death is a great and inevitable transition. Classical spiritual traditions teach concepts and strategies for approaching and passing through it. The grief of personal loss is, of course, terrible. Nevertheless, from this classical spiritual perspective, death is a great adventure. How different would our lives and our society be if we understood and lived harmoniously with it as a befriended companion.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. – Irish saying
I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying. – Woody Allen
Death is a commingling of eternity with time; in the death of a good man, eternity is seen looking through time. – Johann Wolfgang Goethe
The purpose of this article is to share with you an easy strategy for helping a companion who is dying. Specifically, it shows you how to bring comfort where there might be fear and how to ease the transfer of consciousness from the physical body across into the realms of more subtle energy.
I have worked with and taught this strategy for many years. It follows in the path of techniques from many spiritual traditions. No one from any faith or tradition has so far challenged or disagreed with its approach. My personal experience of this work comes from 30 years of meditation and facilitating the transition at death, as well as my own intimate experiences of near-death and out-of-the-body experiences. These started when I was in my mid-twenties and was severely ill from Hepatitis-B.
Funeral and Bereavement
First, we need to be clear that there are three major dynamics happening at death. Each one requires separate attention and mixing them together can be confusing:
• Disposing of the body.
• The grief and bereavement of those left behind.
• The transfer of consciousness.
This article does not deal with disposing of the body or helping the bereaved. There are many organisations that have a sympathetic approach to burial and cremation. You probably need to do some research and see what is available locally.
For the grief and bereavement, I only have simple advice, which is to be kind and patient. Keep your words to a minimum. The quality of your warmth and patience is far more important than anything you might say. Grief cannot be cured by words. Time heals and fills that vacuum and people will take as long as they need to go through the process. Kindness and patience are everything when working with grief.
The Separation of Consciousness
When someone dies, their consciousness lifts off from their physical body. The job of any helper is to support that consciousness as it travels through the confusing and polluted energy fields of human culture across into the Clear Light.
We could get into a long discussion here about what we mean by consciousness and what we mean by Clear Light. Different spiritual traditions have different elaborations, mythologies and descriptions, but I don’t think the differences matter. Essentially, they all state the same:
The persons identity/personality/soul/essence separates from the physical vehicle. This consciousness then has to find its way through the turmoil of humanity’s energies across into the universal fields of clear energy. This turmoil is for example known as Purgatory in the Christian tradition or the Bardo state in Tibetan Buddhism.
Once in the Clear Light the soul then continues with its next stage of growth. The Clear Light is a dimension and space of loving, wise and benevolent energy and consciousness. It could be called heaven or paradise. You can only help a dying person make this transition if you yourself are connected with the Clear Light, with the fields of clear energy. You can then use your own connection with the Clear Light to facilitate your companions journey.
– You connect yourself to the Clear Light.
– You expand your own energy field to include your companion.
– Your companion is then automatically connected with the Clear Light via your own Connection.
– You then visualise/sense/imagine your companion smoothly, gracefully and easily making the voyage across into the Clear Light.
To be able to do this work successfully, you must not only make the Connection yourself with the Clear Light but also have it fully anchored in your body. This work cannot be done simply as a piece of imagination or as a head trip.
You are helping your companion’s transition appropriately if your own body and emotions feel comfortable, calm, warm and safe. You cannot do this work unless your body is in that pleasant mood. If you are in that mood of goodwill and warmth, then you radiate a benevolent field of energy that helps everyone around you.
You cannot facilitate the transference of consciousness if you yourself are in any way grieving, frightened, tense or excited by the situation.
The calm benevolence and warmth of your body and emotions will radiate across to your companion and make her/him feel safe. The loving and affectionate energy of your body will hold and cradle your companion. It is as if you have invisible wings of love that extend to envelope your companion. Just being a good and caring person is enough to help a dying friend.
A person who is dying does not need words, but needs a reassuring and loving presence. Imagine the kind of person you would want next to you if you were dying: warm and kind, making you feel safe.
Making Your Own Connection with the Clear Light
There is a huge difference between being caught up in the vibrations and stimulation of human culture, and feeling connected to the beauty of nature and the universe. Now you have to uncover your own best way of connecting beyond the turmoil of everyday human activity and bring yourself to sensing, knowing and feeling the great and benevolent flow of purposeful energy through the cosmos.
This is not an unusual or rare experience. You may have had it many different situations: listening to music, in landscape, doing sport, making love, appreciating art, relaxing on a beach, satisfied at a job well done, caring for someone, in prayer, meditation… and so on.
When you are in that kind of experience you have reached beyond the normal turmoil and stimulation and can feel the benevolent flow of all life.
When a companion is dying you need to go back into that experience of connection and wellbeing. The simple stimulus of a friend dying may be enough to motivate you back into that state. Kind thoughts, beautiful thoughts, careful focus may work for you. Do whatever works for you to make you feel compassionate, kind and connected to the benevolent love in nature and the universe.
You then need to allow your sense of connection to land fully into your body. Like a sponge, allow yourself to absorb it. As best you can, sense and feel your connection anchoring down into your body. It will make you feel even more comfortable, kind and safe.
This is the important bit
You are now doing two things simultaneously:
One: Your body and attitude are warm and benevolent, and they are expanded to include your companion. Two: You are also connected to the Clear Light. Staying calmly and serenely in that space compassionate, connected and expanded you now softly and patiently sense, imagine and feel your companion passing safely across into the Clear Light.
So the strategy is threefold:
– Compassionate and warm.
– Connected to the Clear Light.
– Extended to include your companion.
Gracefully sense them making the transition into the Clear Light. If you do this practice regularly, then it will carry on without you having to give it attention, like riding a bicycle.
(It may be helpful for you to do a simple drawing of yourself, your companion and the Connection to the Clear Light.)
From the moment that you know that someone is going to die, you can begin the practice. It can do nothing but good and is in itself a healing process. It will not speed up the dying process, but it will certainly help to ease it.
In some cases, for example with prolonged illnesses or elderly parents, you may hold the Connection for someone for several years.
Ending the Process
You will feel when it is appropriate to end the practice for someone.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are there souls who do not make it across into the Clear Light?
Sometimes, for various reasons, people are so compulsively engaged in the chaos of human life that they get caught up for a long period in the vibrations of human life. Sooner or later they pass over.
Can they be helped across?
Yes, of course they can. You can do it yourself, if you feel strong and have a calling to do so. You can do the whole practice for them and gently but firmly sense them making the transition. It is always best in these situations to send out a strong telepathic message asking for help. There are other souls and consciousnesses, sometimes called angels, who will come and help.
Or you can ask a space-clearer or priest/ess to help.
Are there many souls who have trouble crossing to the Clear Light?
In my experience, the vast majority make the journey smoothly and easily. There is help and grace to support their transition.
Then why teach this strategy to help?
Because it is always good to be fully conscious of these hugely important transitions and to cooperate. It is benevolent and loyal to be there with your friends as they change dimensions. And, of course, better safe than sorry.
Is it any use doing this after someone has died?
Yes it is. There may be small trails of energy that have not fully made the transit. This will help bring about completion. It will also help you feel complete in the transition.
Can it do me any harm?
If you have any concern at all that doing this work might harm you, then do not do it. Never take risks with your psychological and spiritual health. That said, I have never met anyone harmed by this work.
Can I do it at a distance?
Yes, you can but it is much more reassuring if someone has your physical presence.
What should I do if there are other people around grieving and showing emotion or talking too much?
Often your example of silent kindness will be picked up by the others.
Do not become tense or judgemental. Your work is reassure and stay in the Connection for your companion. You should also have the same attitude and caring for any people who are upset. Extend your kindness to include them.
If finally you do feel the need to shepherd them into being quiet, make sure you remain in a calm and kind mood. Make sure that whatever you say is sandwiched in kindness, eg: “This is a very difficult time for all of us and I sympathise with your deep feelings, but maybe it would be best if things were more silent around our friend. Would you like to join me in meditation? Can I get you a tea?” They will usually follow the hints.
Should I touch my dying companion?
Only touch your companion if you know for certain that they like it. Be very careful and look for clues as to how they respond. When you touch someone, you want them to relax and not tense. I spent the last 8 hours of my mothers life with her. I did not touch her and felt that I was protecting her from being touched and intruded upon by other people. I had to communicate this to some nursing staff and they immediately respected my instinct as appropriate. On the other hand some people die lying in the arms of their loved ones.
I am told that a person’s last thought determines the nature of their next incarnation. So should I help someone think the right thoughts?
This old chestnut derives from the stricter schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. The abbots were trying to discipline their monks into having a clear and conscious focus as they approached death. It might even have been uttered as a friendly joke, but unfortunately became a serious threat and part of religious dogma. It is as banal and lacking in compassion as Catholic teachers threatening their young students with tales of hell and eternal torment. No, its not true.
So is reincarnation true?
It doesn’t matter in relation to helping someone die. Just hold them in grounded love and maintain a connection with the Clear Light.
Can I help if someone has committed suicide?
Of course you can. The strategy is always the same: hold them in grounded love and see them across. Usually someone who takes their own life has been thinking about it for some time and there are inner helpers who will be there to look after them.
Sogyal Rinpoche: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Stephen Levine: Who Dies and Healing into Death
Elisabeth Kubler:-Ross On Death and Dying
Richard Boerstler and Hulen Cornfield: Life to Death: Harmonizing the Transition
I have just gone through this process with my mother.
We achieved a perfect transition for her and it was beautiful; She was bathed in candlelight and love.
I was left with the feeling that her soul had already separated from her body just before she transitioned.
Thank you William! If I have prepared for phowa and have a suitable companion, I assume I can get to the Clear Light. The Clear Light Society just told me – go to the clear light without a companion but I understand as Sogyal Rinpoche does that a suitable companion would be very useful David Age 79
What a gift you have given to us with these instructions and reflections. Thank you!
Very informative and helpful