by Andrew Holecek
One of the biggest problems in death, as in life, is looking back, or being held back by unhealthy attachments. By cutting our attachments and lightening our load now (by writing wills and other advance directives), we can free ourselves to move forward.
Dealing with all the emotional, medical, legal, and endless practical details that surround death is overwhelming at the time of death, so it behooves us to prepare in advance. The single best thing you can do to have a good death is to relax, and the best way to relax is to have all your affairs in order. These practical preparations have spiritual implications. When we die, we want to travel light into the after-life, what the Tibetans call “bardo” or “gap, transitional process.” Traveling light allows our consciousness to move forward to our next destination.
This is actually a form of “phowa,” which means “transference, or ejection,” and refers to the movement of consciousness after death. There are esoteric and exoteric forms of phowa, and getting all our affairs in order now is a form of exoteric phowa. It’s a spiritual practice.
Advance directives help everyone. They help your caretakers follow your wishes; they help your loved ones by removing all the hassles of sorting out your wishes and implementing them; and they help you by lightening the load on your mind and allowing you to move forward.
What are you waiting for? Since death comes without warning, this means you want to prepare now.
Andrew Holecek will offer a class on preparing to die (advance directives, signs of impending death, hospice, grief, funeral issues, and medical and legal challenges) in Boulder, Colorado on the 1st and 2nd of November. He regularly offers seminars internationally on meditation, dream yoga, and death. He is the author of The Power and the Pain: Transforming Spiritual Hardship into Joy, Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Perspective, and the audio learning course, “Dream Yoga: The Tibetan Path of Awakening Through Lucid Dreaming”. His work has appeared in the Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma, Light of Consciousness, Utne Reader, and other periodicals.