Bringing Consciousness to the Process of Dying

Photo by Mayron Oliveira on Unsplash

have elsewhere written about the benefits of contemplating life after death: it helps us prepare us for our inevitable future, it brings awareness to our true nature, and it can be a great motivator to make sure we live the best life we can, because we realise that death is always just around the corner. Here I want to focus on the actual act of dying. I deliberately use the word “act”, because dying is often framed as something that happens to us, when actually it can be a conscious action seeing us step deliberately into the next chapter of our existence.

I was inspired to write this when listening to an interview with William Buhlman for the Path 11 podcast. Buhlman is one of today’s foremost experiential OBE researchers and someone whose work I have been following since the 1990s when he published his first book Adventures Beyond the Body. In his podcast interview he spoke passionately about the need to develop better processes for the way we die, i.e. the way we embark on our final projection from this dimension back to the extraphysical dimension. As a society we do not have much understanding of what that process involves. Death is still a taboo subject and generally treated as the worst thing that could happen to us, even though it will happen to us all. Our fear of death seems to be due to the high degree of uncertainty and confusion about what it involves: do we cease to exist, are there heaven and hell, will we be punished, will we ever see our loved ones again, and many similar doubts plague us. As a result, it is not surprising that we struggle in supporting our dying to take that journey with awareness.

As a seasoned explorer of non-physical dimensions, Buhlman has no doubts about how life after death will look. He brings that confidence to his suggestions about how to assist those who are going through the process. He takes his cue from Tibetan Buddhist culture, where a dying person is surrounded by monks chanting specific incantations to help them in a conscious and positive transition. For Buddhists, death is a very important opportunity that can determine the quality of the subsequent experiences of the person undergoing the process. If a person dies in an unconscious way, they may be subject to their own fears or other base instincts and easily manipulated by intrusive extraphysical consciousnesses (“spirits”). If, however, a person is conscious and guided through the appropriate chants, Buddhists believe they can reach enlightenment as they enter the extraphysical dimension. I do not subscribe to the Buddhist notion of enlightenment, but I still think it captures something very important. I interpret this belief as a reference to the dying person regaining their full lucidity and enjoying full awareness once they transition, a state that would seem like “enlightenment” when compared to the limited physical state of consciousness most of us experience.

Buhlman’s work on projections of consciousness always strongly emphasises the importance and power of awareness. So it is not surprising that he advocates that awareness should be central to our support for dying persons. The presence of chanting monks at our death beds is impractical for most of us. Instead we now have the capacity to create our own soundtracks that we can use to focus our awareness during the final moments. In his interview, Buhlman proposed creating audio material with positive affirmations, such as “ consciousness now” or “ awareness now”, but anything really that speaks to you personally and inspires you to stay focused and present. This idea is based on the understanding that the sense of hearing is the last sense we lose and that these kinds of messages will thus be the last thing we hear as we transition. According to the Buddhist traditions this transition includes a period after we are “clinically dead” but our spirit may still be attached to or close to the body until our consciousness has completed the process of separation.

Hearing of the Buddhist monks chanting made me think of the Australian Aboriginal practice of singing around the body of the recently deceased, with the intention of helping their spirit return to their ancestral land. Like in Tibetan Buddhism, there is the assumption that the person will hear the songs and it will remind them to return to their spiritual home rather than stay stuck around the community. For Aboriginal people this assumption is founded on the experience of those who can see and sense their extraphysical relatives, and as such know that they are in fact present and able to perceive what is happening. In fact, while it may be scientifically accurate to note that the auditory sense is the last to cease as we withdraw from the physical dimension, the funeral chants of both Tibetan Buddhists and Aboriginal people do not rely solely on the dying person’s auditory sense, but also on the fact that the songs are perceived across dimensions. In my understanding, they are seen as interdimensionally active, i.e. human song has real and tangible repercussions in the subtle energetic dimensions through energetic frequencies we do not yet fully understand.

While we may not be able to easily replicate that aspect of these ancient mortuary practices, bringing consciousness to the process is already a huge step. It is a step that can have deep positive effects not just for the person transitioning, but also for those staying in the physical dimension. Dying well, with consciousness and dignity, can be one of the greatest final gifts we can give our loved ones. Even if we are confident in the existence of life beyond the physical dimension, losing someone we love can be a painful experience.

Grief is a natural response to such loss, no matter how sure we are that we will be seeing the person again eventually. But imagine how much it would help to see the person going through the process with grace, dignity and awareness. Imagine being able to model to your children and grandchildren that death is nothing to be afraid of, but instead presents another aspect of life to which to bring consciousness and empowerment. It can transform what is a challenging time into an opportunity for connection and growth for all. For that reason alone, thinking and talking about death is not morbid, as is so often said when the subject is raised. On the contrary, it is life affirming and empowering because to be able to do die consciously requires spending time with death long before we actually arrive there, so that when we do we are solidly grounded in our own consciousness and the reality that awaits us.

Anthropologist ☆ Explorer of consciousness ☆ Podcaster ☆ Presenter ☆ I write to make the “supernatural” natural and allow genuine exploration of reality

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