I received a great question on my Grateful Dead post that I’d like to follow up on here.
Could you clarify what you mean ‘The more dead you are in life, the more alive you’ll be after death’, is this related to cessation and/or no self? Do you have any fear of death? What is best to emphasize in practice to achieve this?
Yes, it’s definitely related to cessation and no self. But just about any practice should be a good preparation for death if you develop it to an industrial strength level of “CC&E“.
Sometimes it’s useful to distinguish death in the sense of no longer existing, from death in the sense of going through the dying process. Noting Gone would probably be a good preparation for death in the sense of no longer existing. Noting Gone leads to an appreciation of the paradoxical richness of Nothing. A life of noting Gone is a life of intimacy with the richness of death. That’s what I meant by the somewhat enigmatic claim: “the more dead you are during life, the more alive you’ll be after death.”
Regarding, preparation for the dying process, familiarity with restful states and familiarity with expansion and contraction can be helpful. Basically, when a baby comes into the world, it does so through the peristalsis of its mother’s womb. That peristalsis represents the expansion and contraction that pervades of all of nature. When we pass out of existence, those same polar forces grind away the somethingness of self and world. If things go well, you’ll re-identify with those forces, and become your formless parent—thus, in a sense, “sidestepping” your personal demise. Not everyone is fortunate enough to experience the dying process that way. On the other hand, almost anyone can experience the dying process in terms of ever-deepening states of pleasant rest: visual rest (darkness or bright light), auditory rest (mental talk gets wiped away, the ear defocuses), and body rest (you’re so exhausted that you don’t want to move even a tiny bit. This can induce a continuous and profound global relaxation). When I’m asked to guide someone through the dying process, I typically have them focus on See Rest, Hear Rest, Feel Rest, and it almost always works. Of course, I’m usually working with people who already have a meditation practice, but not inevitably. I’ve also had success using rest states to facilitate the passing of non-meditators.
Am I afraid of death? All I can say is this: I have no doubt that if I had not done all those decades of practice, I would be quite concerned on a daily basis with the prospect of my own mortality (I turned 72 a few days ago). That doesn’t seem to be happening much. To be honest, I have no idea of what my reaction will be when the end comes. However I am quite confident that some part of me will know exactly what to do, regardless of what may arise.