The universe recycles everything. Nothing is ever wasted. This is what I imagine happens when we die as well. Our bodily form transforms but all that we are, every atom of love, awareness, inspiration, passion, skill, grace, knowledge, and determination gets transferred somewhere. This form of renewal has already been taking place within our bodies. Our cells are constantly renewing. Below the level of the obvious form of our outer body, transformations are constantly underway. Cells dying and renewing, reconstituting this person that we recognise. So, we actually have had a bit experience with this dying phenomenon. We just don’t like to think about it or talk about it much.

New Stories and Images

In our time, our scientific understanding has superseded our mythological understanding.  We need to replace the images and stories of the past with a new narrative. The Angel of Death is a gothic fantasy from the religious era of the past two thousand years. You wouldn’t really look forward to seeing that guy, right? So cold, so bony, so white faced, wearing that sinister dark hood, and in possession of a dangerous weapon. Shifty and threatening. If I saw him on approach, I would beat a hasty retreat.

Cosmological Ecological Perspectives.

Science tells us that at the quantum level all the particles of matter are connected. All of them. We are part of a dynamic unfolding universe that is endlessly engaging in co-creation. We are embedded in this story in every particle of our being, linked to the potency of all that has happened and all that will happen. The scientific knowledge we now have is astounding, awe provoking, mind expanding in its wondrous epic dimensions. To get our heads around it shakes up our whole perspective.

Coming Close to Dying

Many years ago, I had contracted to do a one-off dance teaching gig at the Woodford Folk Festival. I was living in the little village of Maleny at the time. I am normally a very conscientious person, inclined to put too much effort into my work engagements. This morning, which dawned grey and rainy, I was not like that at all. My usual eagerness and readiness were nowhere in sight. I was procrastinating, inattentive to the procedure of getting ready, and I had a strange foreboding feeling. I was saying things to myself like, “I don’t want to go”. I gave myself a stern reprimand, stating “at this point the deal is non-negotiable, so stop being an idiot and get under way”.

Coming down the hill from Maleny to the folk festival site is a steep winding road with beautiful views of the valley opening up. It isn’t heavily trafficked and it makes for a pleasant drive. This day because of the rain there was no view, and the road was slippery. Because we had just come out of a long dry spell without rain, it is normally a time of caution on the roads in that region. However, what happened to me wasn’t just a normal occurrence.

Later, I heard there had been a large oil spill that morning that had not been notified for clearing up by road safety services. When my little car hit that spill, my steering went out of control, I went into a 360 spin, then hit the high, steep rock embankment at the edge of the road, mounting it then crashing back down, bouncing from a diagonal lean in the ditch on the edge of the road to landing upside down in the middle of the road and skidding back into the ditch. Terrified but miraculously unharmed, I opened my window and crawled out on my belly onto the gravel and bitumen.

Energetic presence

But what I want to share with you is the moment when it began. When my car first began to skid and glide dangerously. Inside my being, not in words but clear in message and content, was the sense “This is what we were trying to warn you about. Hold on. We are with you. We will get you through this”.  I was conscious throughout the entire bashing and banging, smashing and screeching, rock and road hurtling toward me in my vision. Seeing the horror of it all. But there was also a soft luminous pale green light surrounding the whole episode that I couldn’t really see but sensed.

I feel a crack pot even writing this down. I’m a very grounded, earthy, sane kind of person, good in a crisis generally. But I definitely don’t have a non-excitable, non-panicky, unruffled, calm demeanour. It wouldn’t be my normal thing to just open myself up to the imminent risk of death and not be frantically looking for some other frigging option.

We are in this together

I am also someone who uses co-regulation. I can calm myself down alone a great deal, but in moments of doubt, despair, concern and worry, I turn to others. In this episode, I felt I was not alone in my experience. There was an awareness that some energies, that knew that things could go horribly pear-shaped here, were with me. I was going to be supported to get through what was happening. Was that possibly part of my own instinctual intelligence that had some premonition? Was that some part of me that could separate from the incident with detachment and guide me toward best possible outcome given the conditions? Who could say? The embodied part of me, the one I live in most of the time, was in hyper-arousal, adrenalized and shaking, and wide-eyed in terror.

Contact and Resonance

I don’t have any conclusion to draw, except that I take solace in the idea that the presence of myself beyond my body met some other energetic essence and we were in contact.  Contact, resonance, being seen and felt. That’s what happened. We are all necessarily grounded in our consensus reality because that is how our society functions. But what if there is a dance of memory and possibility that shimmers just of our reach, a larger connectivity, a reciprocity and belonging that we are only just beginning to imagine. Perhaps there are other “realities” that intersect and interpenetrate this one.

Who comes in those moments?

The old Greek myths say there is a ferryman. But what if it’s love itself that shows up to get you through. Not some coin demanding, heartless, faceless entity. Stephen Jenkinson says death feeds life. You die so life can continue. Maybe what you give is not a coin but an offering of your beautiful life. Jenkinson invites us to move beyond the need to be soothed in the face of our dying, but as he himself says, he trades in cold comfort. My sense is that the creative force of the universe is loving and unbelievably generous. Endlessly regenerative. While we humans might need to wake up to the reality of the event of our death, I don’t think death has just a wild, wintery bleakness. The universe is a vast web of relationships. When we are in relationship, we are not indifferent to what is happening to the other.

The Mythology of Ordinary Life

The stars shining in the water of our cells, literally the remembering of their genesis inside us, I believe means that the universe would not leave us alone to transition, to transform.  In Gestalt the foundational touchstone of our work is contact. I am interested to support you make contact with the most perplexing, unnameable, mysterious parts of your existence. Without asking that you prematurely find meaning, or align with any provisional meanings I might have made. We can hold together the unknowing, the knowing without form, or understanding beyond thinking. Or plain and simple just meet together how scary it is to think about dying.  How it might help to be a little more ready than we are.

Stephen Jenkinson

Brian Swimme

Glenys Livingstone

Charlene Spretnak

Zjamal Xanitha

Zjamal is in private practice as a Gestalt Psychotherapist and has been working with individuals, couples, and families for the last twenty years. As a counselling clinician her work is client centred, relational, and creatively constructive.