Lights Along the Runway * Imagining Your Flight Into Death

Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, suggests that we think about death often, that we include it consciously within the daily living of our life. Indeed, in the Buddhist Path, blessings and rituals of preparation for death precede as well as accompany the event of death.  I have come to realize that this exercise can also be applied to our deaths in other lifetimes, other places.

When death comes, let it be no stranger to be feared, but an old friend to take us home. In shamanic, transformative meditation we may spontaneously find ourselves journeying to the  moment in time when we will leave, once again, this very familiar world…

One of the most important journeys a shaman takes is the one to assist a soul who is leaving the body in death… I made this journey with my father at his hour of death – a surprising, unexpected enlightment in my training as a solitary shaman.

In the healing of others, the “made” – or trained – shaman takes Flight whenever he or she receives the call.  But each of us has Wings, though we so seldom use them, for shamanism is a natural gift of the Soul. Who knows? Your first practice taxis down the runway of Death may be the initiation you have been waiting for, without knowing it…

Here in the West we can prepare for an active, conscious Death through meditations in which we practice, as it were, the flight into death.  This is not about changing the time or manner of one’s death.  It is about going ahead on our personal timeline – moving through that lacy web of space-time – coming to the moment, wherever it is to be, that we will be leaving our physical form and taking Flight as Soul.

The idea of practising for the last breaths we take is not natural to the western mind.  But this shamanic flight into death can be gently, gradually introduced as an idea, and small steps in meditation can be taken.  Remember, the Higher Self is always there, the partner of the Personality, the inner Guide.

It helps us to make that journey if we remind ourselves that when we leave, we set out for another world that we already know very well. We need not force the issue; it is enough to occasionally, in a mystic mood, grasp the moment and briefly visualize – feel – the peace and the certainty as we set out for that distant Shore. In such moments, we lay down invisible fields of energy, lights along a runway, to carry our Soul outward, on an ancient Flight.

By making this a regular part of our spiritual life now, we prepare the Way for a time when perhaps we will be frail, heavily medicated, or even in acute distress. Now is the time, when we are strong in Spirit and health, to send ahead on the Trail, as it were, the strength of one’s Mind and Soul.

We need not know Where death is for us on the Trail in order to establish a beach-head There, surrounding our death with beauty, tranquility and invincible Faith. And if we already know that our time is short, we may still have good days, even good hours – moments – in which to do this beautiful thing for ourselves.

Practising our death is not morbid at all, and is surely no different than visualizing a good ski run before competing in the Olympics, or speaking other affirmations which we know the DNA can hear. Nor should we fear lest we bring death closer by treating it as part of life. Our Ticket Out was the other half of our Ticket In, arranged as part of the Plan. This comforting thought – and small practice “runs” – can help us bear the poignant pain of leaving home here on Earth, once again.

Let us see in our Mind’s Eye the Great Souls who love us – the Guides always with us in our lives here on Earth. They will be there, with old friends and family, as without hesitation we reach for the Light that is God.

The Path opens up before us. We remember we are loved, imperfect though we are. Farewell beloved Earth, and a pause, as we leave the Body – sweet blessings be upon thee, oh Temple of mine...

In time, this visualization will come naturally, until one fine day, when we really do arrive at the Gate of Departure, we’ll board our plane, and taxi with practised ease into take-off position. There, we will await with a tranquil heart the signal, and when it comes, commence the final run into lift-off, following the Lights along the Runway.

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