Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Death is Life's Door

--by Paul Fleischman (Oct 26, 2015)

(Note from the Editors: 'Sitting' here refers to seated meditation)

Sitting enabled me to see, and compelled me to acknowledge, the role that death had already played, and still continues to play, in my life. Every living creature knows that the sum total of its pulsations is limited. As a child I wondered: Where was I before I was born? Where will I be after I die? How long is forever and when does it end? The high school student of history knew that every hero died; I saw the colors of empires wash back and forth over the maps in the books like tides. (Not me!) Where can I turn that impermanence is not the law? I try to hide from this as well as I can, behind my youth (already wrinkling, first around the eyes, and graying), and health insurance: but no hideout works.

Every day ends with darkness; things must get done today or they will not happen at all. And, funny, rather than sapping my appetite, producing “nausea,” (...) the pressure of nightfall helps me to treasure life. Isn’t this the most universal human observation and counsel? I aim each swing of the maul more accurately at the cracks in the oak cordwood I am splitting. I choose each book I read with precision and reason. I hear the call to care for and love my child and the forest trails that I maintain as a pure ringing note of mandate. I sit at the dawn of day and day passes. Another dawn, but the series is limited, so I swear in my inner chamber I will not miss a day.

Sitting rivets me on the psychological fact that death is life’s door. No power can save me. Because I am aware of death, and afraid, I lean my shoulder into living not automatically and reactively, like an animal, nor passively and pleadingly, like a child pretending he has a father watching over him, but with conscious choice and decision of what will constitute each fleeting moment of my life. I know that my petals cup a volatile radiance. But to keep this in mind in turn requires that an ordinary escapist constantly re-encounters the limit, the metronome of appreciation, death.

I sit because knowing I will die enriches, and excoriates my life, so I have to go out of my way to seek discipline and the stability that is necessary for me to really face it. To embrace life I must shake hands with death. For this, I need practice. Each act of sitting is a dying to outward activity, a relinquishment of distraction, a cessation of anticipatory gratification. It is life now, as it is. Some day this austere focus will come in very, very handy. It already has.

Paul R. Fleischman is a psychiatrist, a teacher of Vipassana meditation, and an author of eight books, most recently, "Wonder: When and Why the World Appears Radiant". The above is from his essay, "Why I Sit".

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On Oct 26, 2015 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

As the author suggests we each have a choice: to fear death or embrace and accept its eventuality and to greet life with gratitude and gusto. In my own life I do my best to fully embrace each day and to know that at any moment it can end. And this is with appreciation for every day; to live, love, learn and grow each day. To tell people how I feel about them with a caring heart. To do seemingly small things like offer hugs to strangers, a listening ear to someone in need to talk, to jump in puddles, to dance in the rain, to smile at the sun, to notice the flowers (even weeds are beautiful when looked at with new eyes.) This has been a work in progress. I have been challenged with Depression and when the darkness comes, I push even more to focus on the light that is always there even if a bit obscured. My father tried to kill himself 5 times and lost his battle with heart disease (when diagnosed, he did everything he was told not to do, a slow form or suicide) I chose to live fully, every day and not become like my father consumed in sadness. Some people seem to die a little every day. I choose to live a little (or a lot ;) ) every day. Gratitude helps so much in embracing life! All those seemingly small things add up into so much beauty! Hugs from my heart to all of yours. I hope you can embrace life too!

On Oct 26, 2015 sheetal wrote:

I had a classmate since my kindergarten days and we went in the same bus, shared the same bench in the class and were also born on the same date. Through our highschool we were inseparable till we chose different subjects and went to other classes. Both of us made new friends and slowly got out of touch. After a few years I heard she stayed in a town close by and I wished to meet her and reconnect. This, I kept postponing as other things were more important, i was so self absorbed with my work and family that I had no time. One day, i received the news that she passed away in cancer. That moment hit me in the heart..i cursed myself for not picking up the phone and calling her or making any effort of seeing her. i regretted my self absorbed, selfish behaviour. This was my wake up call. I made a resolution to listen to my heart and do what it takes to live life, love more and be present for all and the self. Since that day the practice is,  touching as many lives as possible allowing myself to learn and love in the process. Calling one friend a day, giving happy surprises to bring a smile on someone's face and mine too :) Going out of the way to take care of somebody, learning to give in that way. So giving, receiving and dancing can happen a way of life. Death to me now is an awareness that if i am to live 10 more years which is 3500 odd days what would i do each day :) One can do the math to increase or decrease no. of days but all we have is "today"!!

On Oct 27, 2015 david doane wrote:

I believe that forms end or die, including every inanimate thing and every animate cell and body, and I believe that life goes on.  As a child and for a long time I believed in 'heaven' as a place that I would live in after I physically die.  That's a belief and wish that goes back thousands of years and is still alive for many people.  As for me, I now simply believe my spirit or soul will continue to be.  I believe in the continuity of spirit, and death is life's door in the sense that the end or death is a new beginning.  I haven't personally shook hands with death in the sense of consciously being at death's door myself.  The closest I've come to shaking hands with death has been the death of loved ones.  I didn't shake hands with death in order to embrace life -- neither I nor death are that goal-directed -- but the death of loved family members, teachers, and friends has helped me accept the inevitability of death and to embrace more this brief time of life in this form.

On Oct 27, 2015 Syd wrote:

I like how the author says, “To embrace life I must shake hands with death.”  The author goes on to say he needs practice.  From my experience death feels like nothingness, no purpose and it creates this crushing negative self-consciousness.  Death is mean.  It mocks life and it creates this alienation from life.  In my human body death is felt as darkness and the chasm of inner darkness can be like a black hole draining life out of me.  And when death is felt as depression or despair, where there is no choices, the only choice is to welcome death.  It is a choice to merge with nothingness.  This death can be a way of saying no to life and refusing to going on being tormented. 

Because my cells do not produce sufficient energy for my muscles, creating lots of exhaustion and fatigue, death is a moment to moment experience for me.   My daily death is felt as nothing in the world to identify with, nothing true or valuable in which I can believe in.  The meaninglessness can bring about insecurity and powerlessness.  There are even points of terrifying attraction to the darkness because how I felt repulsed with my daily death.  However, lately I have begun to trust this darkness and death.  I am beginning to learn to accept my powerlessness/nothingness and of all things there is a self here.  There is a self in the void, in the darkness and in the death. 

This self within death, for me, is the heart of faith.  It is a realistic faith and is its own value without reference to anyone.  It is a point I trust, even when I cannot deal with the lifelessness anymore.  This faith ask no questions, consents to the meanness of death and learns to accept my having no choices.  I am disappointed in this dying because it has weaned me from my feelings and weaned me from my beliefs.  And yet faith being all there is left is like the sun.  It does not matter if I believe or not because faith becomes this inner Essence and this supportive Presence where death becomes life.                  

On Oct 27, 2015 Manuel Castrillo wrote:

 All are cycles, life and death are human notions of existence, transmutes the physical and the spiritual, the soul manifests itself in different stages. Enjoy and bring in peace and harmony, is the task at the moment of our existence, beyond traveling in different places, that's all.
Manuel Castrillo

On Oct 27, 2015 Patricia wrote:

I do think death is a door.  What does it open to?  When I die I will find out, but for now I am happy to wait to find out.

On Oct 29, 2015 IMP wrote:

I do not fear death. I used to. I used to fear the death of my loved ones, leaving me here devoid of their caresses, their support, their love. But then I realized that all people I meet continue to live inside of me, especially the loved ones - they still talk me through my impasses, my bad moods.
As for my death, I don't fear it at all. At most, my death will be a stretch of my anguishes and torments, or a stretch of my compassion and love. So I work to feed my soul compassion rather than anguish, and love rather than hate, just in case. The slumber of nothingness I would happily embrace, as nothingness is not being a consciousness anymore, thus no I, no Self, no threatening of Self - as there will be no Self to be threatened.
But then, why would one live the Life if there's no fear of Death? I live it for the process - the understanding, the discovering, the becoming. There is beauty in Time, the relentless Transformation of this world we know. Observing it brings me joy. It's only that from time to time, quite often sadly, I loose focus from it. And I have not learned to let it go yet, to accept that I am only human.

On Nov 1, 2015 Jack Waller wrote:

 A rite of passage, that transcends our physical being. The transmigration of our soul leads to the  ephemeral joy when we are rejoined with those whom we have loved. "O death where is thy sting, o grave where is your victory."

On Nov 4, 2015 PRAKASH TALATHI wrote:

                                  Death is Life's Door

-       Shaking hands with death in order to embrace life – 

1) Death is like a deep and long sleep - When we get-up from this sleep find ourselves in a different dress (Body) and at `different address with unknown smiling faces around us.

Only problem is that we do not remember everything of the past and so are confused. There is only fear of unknown and uncertainty in this long and deep sleep (death)!

However, how much do we love sleep? Those who are not getting good sound sleep are constantly grumbling with everyone. People long for their week-end afternoon siesta. We welcome daily sleep longingly; however, we are scared of that long sleep, death. Why?

Because when we get-up from sleep we are energetic and there is guarantee to meet all old faces and life continues. However, in that long deep sleep there is no guarantee whether we will meet again and if we meet, we all will have different masks, clean slate and a fresh start! And that’s life!

We take entry in an unknown family as a new born baby! We come across with new faces, develop relationship and get separated when their or our journey ends.


2) Knowing Truth - If one will know who he is then there will not be any fear of death. When one understands he is a soul but says ‘my soul’ means there is a problem with head and heart. Though head understands heart is not accepting. I am a soul, an eternal energy, body is perishable, comes and goes. So, death is insignificant as I am always there. 

3) Change of Perception – A person is standing on the deck of a ship, his relations gather at the port. When the journey starts, he waves from the deck of the ship, and they wave from the port. The size of the ship keeps getting smaller, becomes a mere point at horizon and then vanishes. Close relations wipe their tears, and someone says: "The ship is gone!"  

But where has it gone?  Gone from sight, that’s all! The diminished size and the total loss of sight are in the viewer, not in the ship; ship is at it was.   And that is death…!


On the other side, the scene is different. Someone sees a dot at the horizon and shouts, 'It is coming!' The dot grows bigger and bigger … finally one sees the ship approaching. As it comes closer, relations and friends notice the person standing on the deck and waving cheerfully.  With joy flowing, they shout: 'See! He is there!' ……….  And that is birth…!


Death is NOT AN END, it is just change of dress (Body) and address! It is new beginning!


So, by changing perception of an event, we can develop an ability to confront and resolve external and internal conflicts, obstacles, difficulties, hurdles and so forth and can liberate from fear. 

Kindly send your views on this piece -

Thanks & Regards

On Dec 19, 2015 joni wrote:

 Death no lo nger frightens me since I have had a slight glimpse of another dimension where light and love reign supreme.  I am at 82 yrs of age rather curious more than anything else. So many of family and friends have passed already, why not me? It is all good whether here or there.

On Feb 6, 2016 Ramesh Narayan wrote:

Well said.....Prakash 

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