Day 34 of the Feast
Dear One,

My husband Marty and I were heading to the airport to fly to NYC for a funeral. His younger brother died suddenly at the age of 58 from complications from the flu. Here is what Marty wrote on his Facebook page:

"I am truly the biggest glutton for pleasure. My brother Matthew was a really big glutton for pleasure too! .... Many people are saying to me "sorry for your loss." Though I appreciate this sweetness and kindness from everyone, in all honesty, I am not experiencing any loss at all, in fact I am experiencing just the opposite, a tremendous gain. Matthew has inspired me to push it to the limit when it comes to pleasure. It's the greatest gift I could receive and I LOVE him with all of my heart for doing that! Thank you dear brother.

If he could talk to me right now this is what I think he would say:
(This is quoted the 20th Century Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, Henry Scott Holland .)

Marty, I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, we are still.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed.
Smile and think of me!
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant, it is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near,
Just around the corner. Death is nothing at all.

Marty's best friend Mike Shingleton commented on his post: Your sublime words, Marty, remind me of a Q&A with Ramana Maharshi when he was asked about death. (Ramana is a saint from India who first found enlightenment as he had intense experience of his own death when he was young.*)

Ramana said:

"Mourning is not the index of true love. It betrays love of the object, of its shape only. That is not love. True love is shown by the certainty that the object of love is in the Self (Being, the Holy Spirit) and that it can never become non-existent. There will be no pain if the physical outlook is given up and if the person exists as the Self ."

For those of you who haven't heard of him, Ramana Maharshi was a great sage who lived from 1879-1950 best known for his teachings of self-inquiry and his books Be As You Are, and, Who Am I? which has been read all over the world. He inquired deeply into death. A practice anyone can do. What is death? What dies?

We all come and we go, and just because we do go, we should take a look at death. This will help us live more beautifully.

In the words of Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Life is impermanent, but that does not mean that it is not worth living. It is precisely because of its impermanence that we value life so dearly."
Thank you for putting your spirituality first during this time of deep practice. I am practicing with you.

Love, Sarah

Sarah McLean
Director, Feast for the Soul, Inc.

Meditation Teacher Highlight
Feast favorite Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Anam Thubten, offers a variety of beautiful meditations each year. He honors the three jewels of Buddhism in his invocation to open and close his meditations:
“Buddham sharanam gacchami. Dhammam sharanam gacchami. Sangham sharanam gacchami.”

I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the teachings for refuge. I go to the community for refuge.
“Om gate gate paragate. Parasamgate bodhi svaha.”  

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond. Gone completely beyond, awake, so be it. 

Listen to a beautiful rendition of Gate Gate Mantra sung by Deva Premal here.
Spiritual Practice Tip
Death Awareness Practice: Maranasati Meditation

What does your breath feel like right now? Can you hear sounds? Silence? Smells? The shapes and colors that make up the room you are in? Any discomfort in the body? What thoughts, images, and moods are coloring the consciousness right now?

Be as intimate with this moment as you are able to. When it is time to actually die it will be happening in an ordinary living moment just like this one.

Zen Buddhist Larry Rosenberg gives direction into this practice:

"Imagine that the process of dying will take place now. You can simulate such a moment and weaken or transcend the power of the fear it may release. Every time we engage in some form of  maranasati  we help ourselves to acknowledge the impermanent nature of everything. It deepens our understanding of what it means to be alive. We are all companions in all old age, sickness and death—seeing this more clearly can help us see how precious each one of us is. There is no way to be exempt from death. Those we love must also die. Really seeing this can enable us to see everyone more sympathetically.

"Therefore we must know how to live each moment deeply and use it in a responsible way. If we are able to live the present moment completely, we will not feel regret later. We will know how to care for those who are close to us and how to bring them happiness. When we accept that all things are impermanent, we will not be incapacitated by suffering when things decay and die. We can remain peaceful and content in the face of change, prosperity and decline, success and failure.”

"Deepening our understanding of death can radically affect how we live life. Priorities can change and we may not have as much of an investment in an imagined future—perhaps less accumulation of things; perhaps less of an obsession with unattainable security; perhaps less of a preoccupation with “becoming someone,” not so much living for the “future,” because there isn’t one. Is it possible to have fulfillment in  this  moment?

"To learn how to die is also to learn how to live. Death can serve as a “coach,” encouraging us to live completely in the present, with more confidence and less fear."

Notes from my Pilgrimmage to Tiru:

As we ride in a tuktuk from the guest house to the temple, the roads are lined with monkeys street dogs, and sadhus (holy men covered in sacred ash who worship of Shiva.) The peacocks are calling from the roof of the temple as we enter. Brahmin boys chant vedic mantras while worshippers circumambulate the altar in prayer. Nearby is the hall where Ramana sat and taught and meditated when he wasn't walking around the sacred mountain nearby (Mount Arunachala). People say he radiated a powerful silence which quieted minds. When we meditated there, it was palpable.
Here's his story:

Ramana was born to a Brahmin family in the state of Tamil Nadu. At the age of 16, he had a life-changing experience during which he spontaneously initiated a process of self-inquiry that culminated, within a few minutes, in his own permanent awakening. That's when he went to the sacred mountain in Thiru he lived in a cave for many years. Here are his words describing his experience in 1896 when he was 16:

*"I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle's house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me.

There was nothing in my state of health to account for it nor was there any urge in me to find out whether there was any account for the fear. I just felt I was going to die and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or any elders or friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ' Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.'

And at once I dramatised the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out still as though rigor mortis has set in, and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry.

I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, and that neither the word 'I' nor any word could be uttered. 'Well then, ' I said to myself, ' this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burn and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Is the body I ? It is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of I within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit. '

All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truths which I perceived directly almost without thought process. I was something real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on that I.

From that moment onwards, the I or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time. Other thought might come and go like the various notes of music, but the I continued like the fundamental sruti [that which is heard] note which underlies and blends with all other notes."
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