Not This Time

About 1 pm today, I lay down on our bed.  I could feel how much effort was in my system, so I let it all go, just lowered down into the realm below effort, desperate for rest.  And felt my death there, a palpable thing.  So tired, I couldn’t imagine doing anything, even the thought of calling for help was too much.  I looked into death, my death.  Tears, grief, but even that was too much effort.  I thought of people I love, and people who love me, and realized that I, in that moment, didn’t have the energy to do anything at all.

I eventually called Eric and shocked us both by how weak I was, I am.  He said he had to finish a meeting, do something else, and then he would head home.  He knew it was real.  I called my dear friend Anatta, who was here in about 5 minutes or so.  She held me tight; it felt like I was leaving out of every pore, I needed an anchor.  She knew exactly what to do and kept me safe.

1. Here’s what I learned about dying, today.  It seems to me that there is some kind of glue that holds us all together, me and everyone else, all beings.  That glue, whatever it is, is beginning to loosen in me, and I can feel that happen.  I guess when that glue is gone, we  die.  It’s connected to life force, to chi, to our “give a shit” quotient, to quote the author of Die Wise, Stephen Jenkinson.  From all that I can tell at the moment, there is a little more space in my system as a result.  Not a bad feeling, so far.

2. My niece gave birth recently.  Her water broke, and the birthing process began. Once that happens, there is no stopping that baby!  My sense today is that there may be a similar event that begins the dying process, after which there is no stopping it.  Not sure what that might be yet, but I could sense it today, a presence, an idea, a concept that rings true to me.  That did not happen, not this time.  But its coming.  I thought I might be able to live through this cancer, to live a long time.  Perhaps I will.  But at the moment, it feels pretty unlikely.

I spent an evening with Stephen Jenkinson a week or so ago, while he was in Portland.  Me and several hundred others, at the Clinton Street Theatre.  He talks about how we can love each other by putting language to dying, sharing that, bringing it into our culture as a natural part of life, learning how to do it, and loving each other by teaching how it is, how to do it.  Braiding it into our lives.

People who see me often say, O what a great attitude you have, or you look wonderful, you look strong, or you sound great.  What they are seeing or hearing is my effort.  What I glimpsed today is what is underneath.

I am trying to stay mindful and to share this holy and marvelous and scary and heartbreaking process as best I can.









13 thoughts on “Not This Time

  1. My dear Susan, deep bows of gratitude for sharing this experience of letting go into the realm below effort and feeling into that space, being “mindful of this holy and marvelous and scary and heartbreaking process.”

    My first thought was of the late Stephen Levine’s Guided Meditation on Dying, from Guided Meditations, Explorations and Healings, pp. 310-315

    Please see:

    Three disconnected excerpts to give you a flavor. There’s so much more in the whole piece, so beautifully and mindfully crafted to guide you through these realms – in safety, as practice, if and when you so choose.

    (To be read slowly to a friend or silently to oneself.)

    ….Explore this container for the life-force.
    And explore the life-force as sensation arising and passing away.
    And as you note these sensations, notice how though they arise in the
    heavy body, they seem to be received by something subtler within.
    Something lighter within this heavier form.
    Within this heavy body is a body of awareness, a light body which
    experiences hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, received through the outer body.
    Feel the body of awareness, this inner body, this light body, perfectly
    nestled within the heavier form, receiving experience-experiencing.
    Sense the lighter body within. The body of awareness that
    experiences all that enters through the senses. It recognizes sound as
    hearing. It delights in music. It experiences images as seeing. And
    recognizes great beauty. It experiences food as taste. It knows it is alive.
    Enter this light body of awareness….
    …Feel how the breath connects the solid body with the light body.
    Experience each breath.
    Just awareness and sensation. Each breath. Experience this delicate
    balance, moment to moment, as sensation, as awareness itself.
    And take each breath as though it were the last.
    Experience each inhalation as though it were never to be followed by another.
    Each breath the last.
    The last breath of incarnation.
    Let the breath come. Let the breath go.
    The last breath of life leaving the heavy body behind.
    Each breath ending. The connection severed between the heavy body and the light body.
    The end of a lifetime. The final breath.
    Each breath the last.
    Let go. Don’t hold on to it.
    Let each breath go, finally and forever, don’t even be attached to the next breath.
    As the last breath leaves go with it. Don’t hold on. Let yourself die.
    Let the light body float free now.
    Let yourself die.
    Let go now.
    Let go now.
    Gently, gently, let it all go. Let it all float free. Let yourself die.
    Leave the body behind and follow the light into luminous space.
    Go into it. Let yourself die into space.
    Each breath vanishes. Each thought dissolving into space. Don’t
    hold now. Just let go once and for all. Let go of fear. Let go of longing.
    Open to the wonder….
    …And from across vast space notice now something gently approaching.
    It is the first breath of life.
    Watch the breath approaching as if from far away. Experience it entering the body.
    Each breath the first. Each inhalation the first breath of life.
    Each breath completely new.
    Each breath bringing us back into the body.
    Taking birth once again.
    Born back into the body.
    Taking birth again to serve and be served. To learn. To teach. To care and be cared for….

    Blessings, metta, and love,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trudy, thank you so much, especially for the first section. If I am able, I want to blog on a new book I’m reading, entitled How to Enjoy Death. Written by a Lama, it’s so warm and loving, so complete, and yet also detailed in the Tibetan view of things. Such a rich resource. By Wisdom Publications. It’s pricey to buy, over $30, but well worth it. Today I feel just slightly stronger, getting clearer about what this is all about and where I am. Hope you and Peter are doing well. Such long time friends we have been!


      1. Susan, I hope you’ll have enough energy to take the time to read Stephen Levine’s entire guided meditation at some point. It’s a jewel that I’ve returned to a number of times myself and also shared with people whose loved ones were dying or had died recently.

        Thought you might appreciate this review of How to Enjoy Death that I just found after googling the book you’re reading. Thanks for mentioning the book. It’s new to us.

        And thanks so much for the link to the latest Stephen Jenkinson interview (New Dimensions). Looking forward to listening to that soon.

        Love to you & Eric!


      2. See also these links to Heart Practices for Dying and Death

        These are Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s heart practices to perform when someone is dying or has died. The Medicine Buddha Puja and “Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead” are the most essential practices to do.


      3. [Reposting reply that didn’t seem to make it into this thread just now, alas – probably operator error. ;-)]

        Susan, I hope you’ll feel well enough to take some time to savor Stephen Levine’s guided meditation in its entirety at some point. It’s a real gem that I’ve returned to a number of times myself and also shared with friends whose loved ones were dying or had just died.

        And thank you for mentioning the Lama’s book, How to Enjoy Death. Googling it I found this review which you may appreciate:

        We’ve also taken note of Stephen Jenkinson’s latest interview (New Dimensions) which we both look forward to listening to soon.

        Blessings & much love to you and Eric!


      4. Thanks for the book report. I love this book and find it incredibly helpful. If you haven’t seen the Jenkinson DVD called Griefwalker, I recommend it as well. Very well done. His book Die Wise, and this one, together, are potent. Hope you are both doing well. Such a long time I’ve known you, all the way from some work you did for the City of Portland, using some very early computer work with groups, to our own group, and so on. Hugs.


  2. Susan ~ I think of your process often, especially when I am deep into a yoga meditation. Thank you for sharing what is happening. As you do that, you enrich my life so I will be ready when my time comes. I will hold the happy memories of our roommate time together forever. Much love. Marcia


    1. Hi Marcia! I am so happy to hear that this blogging thing is being helpful. Yippee. And I also remember our time together, with a big smile. Hope you are doing well and that your blueberries are thriving. Today things are a little better, I’m learning so much every day!


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