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Center for Action and Contemplation


Friday, April 5, 2019

Dying Before You Die

Friday, April 5, 2019

Death—whether one of many deaths to the false self or our final physical dying—is simply returning to our spacious Ground of Being, to our foundation in Love. Life doesn’t truly end; it simply changes form and continues evolving into ever new shapes and beauty.

In addition to my own close encounters with death, I’ve been privileged to accompany others at the threshold of birth and death. These glimpses through the veil have helped me trust Love and let go of ego. Philip Simmons wrote that “living at the edge is not so extraordinary as it may sound”:

We all have within us this capacity for wonder, this ability to break the bonds of ordinary awareness and sense that though our lives are fleeting and transitory, we are part of something larger, eternal and unchanging. [1]

After her teenage daughter Jenny died in a car crash, Mirabai Starr described grief as being “suspended in the invisible arms of a Love I had only dreamed of,” “drowning” but discovering she could breathe under water. [2]

Shelley Chapin Drake, a beloved friend of the Center for Action and Contemplation, recently passed away after living with cancer for many decades. Shelley’s husband, Kirk, shared with us: “No matter what we do, we are held in wonder’s presence. I choose to surrender there, to the wonder of presence now, where Shelley is alive and well.” A few weeks before she died, Shelley wrote:

Kirk and I decided, early on, that what we long to surrender to is not an ideal or a safety net, but Wonder itself. . . .

[We] have held on to the concept of Wonder as a guiding concept . . . a way to focus our attention in these days when life is so uncertain. We have absolutely no idea what the author of Love is asking of us . . . except we are fairly certain the Beloved One is not asking us to lay claim to any certainties at all. We are fairly sure that the Beloved is simply holding us tight . . . holding us close . . . holding us in Pure Love in the palm of Love’s hand. . . . And what else could we possibly ask for?

Living in the Wonder teaches us to “show up” . . . and “showing up” teaches us to “be with” the Beloved. . . .

The Beloved is not in a far-off land, waiting for us to catch up with him (or her). . . . The Beloved is Love and there is no other place for Love to be than in the act of holding tightly to you and to me. Deep within the recesses of our very being, we are held . . . known . . . treasured . . . not “out there” somewhere, but in the very Wonder of Love . . . in the very seat of the Heart . . . in the very core of the Soul.

The more we live in the Wonder and welcome our placement in this very heart of Love, the easier it is to trust . . . to “release our fears” . . . to live without proclaiming certainties . . . to settle into this very core we can only call Love.

[1] Philip Simmons, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life (Bantam Books: 2000, 2003), 152.

[2] See Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing Company: 2012), 63-65.

[3] Shelley Chapin Drake, “What We Treasure about Wonder,” January 20, 2019,

Image credit: The Gulf Stream (detail), Winslow Homer, 1899, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Those who follow life to where it resides in the heart live life fully. —Stephen Levine
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