death and the summertime

I’ve learnt that there’s little point running ‘death and the only beauty that lasts’ events in the summertime. People simply don’t want to ‘go there’. So that’s how it is. People carry on dying all through the year (at risk of stating the obvious) but even those ‘death warriors’ who are interested and prepared to turn towards death and explore it, don’t want to do it in the summertime.

I keep Sogyal Rimpoche’s ‘Glimpse after Glimpse: Daily Reflections on Living and Dying’ by my loo. (A book that’s inspired by his best-selling ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’.) We’re in the midst of a heatwave in the UK at the moment. I’m having a wonderful summer – I hope you are too – and wanted to share his 6th June entry with you.

“Looking into death needn’t be frightening or morbid. Why not reflect on death when you are really inspired, relaxed, and comfortable, lying in bed, or on vacation, or listening to music that particularly delights you? Why not reflect on it when you are happy, in good health, confident, and full of well being? Don’t you notice that there are particular moments when you are naturally inspired to introspection? Work with them gently, for these are the moments when you can go through a powerful experience, and your whole worldview can change quickly. These are the moments when former beliefs crumble on their own, and you can find yourself being transformed.”

I always have a session of reflecting on death at my workshops, more than one session on a retreat, when there’s more time to try a variety of reflections and different ways of doing them. I talk a little about how to approach reflection in general, and reflection on death in particular. And I always begin a session with a reminder of why we’re doing it, by quoting this opening verse of a tonglen written for the time of death by Lama Shenpen Hookham:

“Contemplating death,
do not fear it,
but learn to trust what is not touched by it.”

So there’s a few words to bear in mind, should you choose to take Sogyal Rimpoche’s advice during the rest of the summertime. Enjoy!

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