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A Deathbed Meditation

By Renée Tillotson

Imagine, if you will, that our universe came into being not with a bang, but with a breath – a great, long out-breathing. And imagine that this universe will pass away with something like an in-breath, back into non-existence, at least as we know it. And imagine this pause of non-being to stretch infinitely… until, at last, another great out-breath self-emerges and a new universe emanates.

Continuing this meditation on vast, cosmic breathing, we can use the mind’s ear to hear its tremendous rhythm, like a tide flooding in…. And then washing back out.

Imagine yourself upon a bank near the sea, listening to the perpetual roar of the waves rolling onto the shore and rushing back out again. Let your breath follow that natural pattern of in-coming and out-going, in-coming and out-going. Steady, natural rhythm, unceasing. Sometimes hearing great waves crashing and flooding high upon the sand, then dashing back out to the sea. Then settling down, perhaps before dawn, until it’s just small wavelets gentling lapping upon the shore, then sliding back into the sea.

And now we let the breath separate itself from the waves, from the water, freeing itself into the vast expanse of space.

In this renewed beginning, the great out-breathing fills an entire universe with its presence, extending farther and farther, deeper and deeper, until everything within its great span is singing and shining, sparkling in existance. The very stars, the suns, the galaxies and meta-galaxies dance lightly upon and within this grand, expansive breath….. until that breath reaches its farthest-most limit of extension….

And ever so slightly, so imperceptibly, the expansive force transmutes itself into enfolding energy, like the ripple from the pebble dropped into the middle of the pond, undulates out upon the pond’s surface in an ever-widening circle, widening, widening, until it reaches the shore…….until we begin to realize that the farthest perimeter of the circle is rippling back in upon itself, smaller and smaller, into that center point…..from which it out-ripples yet again, a bit more softly.

So does that grand initial breath of this universe emerge from an unidentifiable center-point, generating outward waves and incoming lesser rings, over and over again, uncountably. Eventually the surface of the pond lies quite still, so calm, so peaceful, mirroring the sky above. So serene. Resting at peace as the night stars slowly travel above, tracing their path upon the pond’s still surface.

Now, a gentle breath of wind arises, ruffling the water’s clear surface, so that the moonlight’s reflection scatters into millions of soft-shining bits, waiting to reassemble themselves as the breeze moves on, and the water’s surface becomes again crystalline and still.

Let’s imagine ourselves now as part of that great breath that ever brings a fresh universe into being. Imagine ourselves traveling through space, touching and activating all the particles around us as we pass through, giving them vitality, setting them into motion, causing them to whirl and dance into life… into this life that we’ve been living in a body – this body of ours that has been able to do and see and hear and make so many wonderful things, this body that has given us so much joy, and even its sorrows, from which we have learned such lessons of love and care.

And now this breath that has animated our dear body since our birth has reached its furthest extent, its farthest shore, and is ready to recede again, leaving behind all the beautiful particles that it has vitalized, thanking the particles for their exquisite dance of a life well-lived, with all its efforts, its loves, its seeming missteps and their corrective clarifications dawning upon our consciousness, as we realize that all is well.

And in this liminal state between the out-breathing that became our life here on earth and the gathering energy of the in-breathing that will allow us to withdraw from our involvement with the world… in this liminal, transitional space, we bob lightly, like surfers on the waters of a sea, held up on its rolling surface, awaiting the wave that will carry us back to our shore. And when that wave comes, we ride it in onto the beach, and we are safe.

The shore becomes shorelessness, limitless light and space. Our breath merges with the great breath of the cosmos. And we are free.

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