For much of my adult life, I have followed a meditation practice, seeking to bring myself fully into the moment. Now, at age 70, being in the moment includes an awareness of my own approaching death. And often during my active day, I find myself contemplating with curiosity and wonder this upcoming event.
In our culture we celebrate a birth, despite the pain and struggle involved, as a miraculous event, a positive experience and a gift. It's one of the high points in a family's and community's journey together. I want to celebrate death like that. Birth and death both contain deep personal experiences that are bigger than everyday life. As with that other great transformational moment, death embodies the epitome of aliveness. And it is inscribed with paths leading to the essential core of being alive.
Wander through any art museum and you'll find expressions of the dying process. Artists can bring into conscious awareness what we might otherwise turn our back on out of fear. Humans have long employed art as a companion and vehicle on journeys through unknown territory. Art carries us to places beyond right and wrong, beyond the urge to judge or analyze or make comparisons. It strengthens us at a time of intense vulnerability and brings a sense of space and normality to the unknown.
Art is a non-verbal tool for accessing our inner experiences. The most transformative events in life often are indescribable in words. They come as flashes of raw awareness and understanding. They can feel like dreams of a different time-space.
Doing art as I approach my own death is a comforting experience and opens many insightful windows into the unknown. The art forms I've been exploring include ceremonies, amulets (such as the one at the left), talismans, collages, drawings and jewelry. As I proceed into my own dying process, one of the greatest pleasures is sharing art with friends and loved ones around me.