Encountering Death

Encountering Death

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? —Mary Oliver

Death is utterly acceptable to consciousness and life. There has been endless time of numberless deaths, but neither consciousness nor life has ceased to arise. — Adi Da

Understandably, most people don’t like thinking about death until someone close to them dies or a disease intrudes and threatens their life. We try to keep death at bay, as if it were the “enemy”. Our culture doesn’t have much place for death, though so much of life revolves around it.

In the past year, several people close to me have died. It has me thinking again about death. What is death? Only the breakdown and disappearance of the body? The complete absence of awareness of being? Awareness of the possibility of our own absence may help in understanding death. The primary awareness of our existence is fundamental to being conscious and alive. This recognition appears independent of body. What happens to that feeling of “I exist” without a body? Does it persist? While philosophers and religious thinkers have spent ages talking about mortality, humans generally spend a lot of time and money avoiding it!

In childhood, I had a recurring dream: I had the sensation of a trapdoor opening beneath me, and I was being sucked downward fast, like the wind pulled out of a hole in a pressurize plane cabin. It felt as if I was dropping out of my body-mind, out of me. I felt I was disappearing. I would wake up in a panic, crying. And my mother would comfort me. I realized then what deep fear existed inside me, part of which was about losing control. Was it death that I was afraid of? The dream felt so real, indistinguishable from waking life.

Sometimes, as a child, I would lie in bed wondering what would happen if I did not exist. I would rack my brain trying to think of my own absence. I realized it was impossible. How could one imagine not being? That would be absurd. I knew my body could be lost, but I doubted “I” could cease to exist at all. With the body dead, it seemed possible that consciousness could continue. I didn’t know, but I wondered and had an intuitive “faith”. I still had no answer, though, as to what death was.

Once, as a boy, I almost drowned while playing in the ocean in Normandy. I was pulled under by a powerful undertow, as small rocks rained down on me. With no sight of the surface, I struggled in a panic to come up. At one point, I suddenly seemed to be calmly observing myself from outside my body. It only lasted a second, and then I was overwhelmed again in the struggle to get out. Luckily, I did. Needless to say, I didn’t go back in the water! Here was another example of how fear was associated with the body, but awareness could separate from the body.

Falling asleep serves as a good analogy for dying. When we fall asleep, we seem to disappear. It happens naturally, without effort or fear and without us knowing. We don’t control it. We do not resist; we even welcome it! In deep sleep, the brain is barely active.  (Neuroscience is making great strides in studying this topic.) Where does our awareness go? Unlike in death, we participate in sleep knowing we will return to the same body upon waking. Only then will we realize we are alive!

As a medical professional, I’ve worked with people struggling with health issues for most of my adult life. I’ve always desired to help others overcome suffering. Yet it still sometimes takes great effort to distance myself from the situation. I used to consider death the ultimate suffering, but that has been changing as I learn more about the experiences of the dying and consciousness.

When you look into a dying person’s eyes, you usually do not see fear—pain, yes, but not fear. You see love for those around them, but also a graceful letting go—surrendering. To me, it seems that thoughts of dying, and identifying exclusively with the body, cause more suffering than the moment of death itself. Those around the dying person are more afraid than the person dying. You can see their love for the dying person, but also a struggle to hold on to them. If we can let go, we can help the dying pass on easefully.

“Death” remains a mystery. But knowing that fear is only a part of the body-mind, and that awareness may not be dependent on the body, brings a non-theological faith that makes the mystery of life something to celebrate.

© 2017 Keyvan Golestaneh

The Spectrum Of Bodywork

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Most of us have heard of massage, physical therapy and chiropractors, but not other therapeutic methods such as others like Cranial-sacral, Structural therapy. Massage comes in many different styles, from well-known Swedish, Sports and Thai massage to lesser known systems like neuromuscular. Osteopathy and Chiropractic are similar in many ways. Chiropractor generally works on the… Continue Reading

To Supplement, or not to Supplement?

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Yes, in some cases, but in many cases, no. There is no definitive answer, because each person is different with different needs. In general, clinical evidence shows that it’s best to get your nutritional needs from the food you eat. Health and nutritional supplements have skyrocketed in popularity. The variety of available products and contradictory… Continue Reading

10 Health and Medical Myths

10 Health and Medical Myths

A myth develops when an idea or ethos is assumed to be “natural” or the way things are. It’s a way of naturalizing something that is not. Society and culture are built on our ability to create myths. It creates a consensus reality. Myths aren’t just about gods and goddesses. It’s not only the ancient Greeks and Romans, or tribal cultures in the Amazon that live by myths, all societies do. They are presuppositions we have which we take for granted as given.

Unfortunately what we assume to be true isn’t always the case. Instead of unquestionably believing something, it’s better to look at the evidence, to uncover the truth. We can go our whole life acting on assumptions that are wrong and suffer because of it. A good example of going beyond accepted knowledge is “Freakonomics” (S. Levitt & S. Dubner). The authors took commonly accepted truths and overturned them by researching the facts and uncovering the evidence.

Because we rely so much on the media and the Internet for information, myths are spread not only by word of mouth, but as fast as viruses. The downside of a mediated world where information spreads instantaneously is that misinformation also moves as quickly! It’s hard for the general public to separate what is true from fiction. When it comes to health and medical issues the situation is even worse. Most people rely on the biomedical establishment and government agencies for guidance. But there are often institutional and economic forces that keep them stuck in the status quo. They change slowly. It can take years before scientific research and new treatment approaches make it to doctors and health practitioners. They may also be uneducated about available effective alternatives.

Many people now use the Internet to look for answers. The Internet is a double-edged sword. You can find just as much misinformation as reliable answers. Anyone can publish anything and there are no editors or authorities to certify for accuracy. It’s more important then ever to use reliable sources and critical thinking before you accept something as a “truth”.
Here is a list of commonly accepted health myths:

1/ You need to eat dairy products to get enough calcium. False. Vegetables, like broccoli and kale contain the highest source of calcium.

2/ You can’t get enough protein if you don’t eat meat. False. Plant sources have the full range of amino acids and are an excellent source of protein (beans, legumes, quinoa, seeds, nuts). They are also low in fat. They only lack B12, which is not a protein.

3/ Taking antibiotics for a cold or flu can help. False. Antibiotics have zero effect on viruses, which are the cause of most colds and flu. Over-prescribing antibiotics has created stronger more resistant bacteria, which is a real danger.

4/ You need drugs, like statins to lower your cholesterol. False. An appropriate diet can work faster at lowering cholesterol. It’s also safer because statins have adverse side effects.

5/ Mental illness can be treated best using drugs and/or psychotherapy alone. False. Depression and other psychological problems can be treated more effectively using an integrated approach that includes lifestyle changes.

6/ Auto-immune diseases like arthritis, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), fibromyalgia and MS are not treatable. False. Many auto-immune diseases like psoriasis and arthritis can be treated successfully naturally, and others can be slowed and managed better.

7/ Many common allergies you are born with are only manageable with medication. False. Most airborne or seasonal allergies to hay or pollen and some food allergies can be successfully treated naturally.

8/ Type 2 diabetes is not curable. False. Unlike type 1 diabetes, adult onset type 2 is treatable naturally and in many cases is reversible.

9/ Taking antacids for heartburn and acid reflux solves the problem. False. They suppress the stomach’s ability to produce acid, which is needed for digestion. By suppressing the symptoms they damage the stomach lining.

10/ Calorie counting in order to lose weight is effective. Calories are not the only factor in weight management. If the body cannot absorb nutrients and eliminate waste effectively, and if you don’t exercise sufficiently your weight may be difficult to control.

These do not cover all the health and medical “myths” but they do cover many of the most common health issues people face. The bottom line is that the medical and health field is changing quickly today, and you can no longer take for granted what you and your parents took as truths. It’s good to question “truths” that have been taken for granted because many of them may no longer be valid. Your health and wealth may depend on it.

The post 10 Health and Medical Myths appeared first on Expatriates Magazine Paris.

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The Case for Meditation

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