By Clare Goldsberry
No one who is born upon this earthly plane of existence
is free from pain and suffering.
Life can turn in an instant. One single event can be life-changing, another portends our death. What do we do with this uncertainty? Are we afraid? Do we live in fear?
In the Buddhist tradition pain, suffering and death hold the possibility to awaken us and teach us how to live fully. It also offers a way to transcend pain and suffering with a concept that calls for embracing the very thing that causes us pain and suffering and to accept it, move and flow with it as part of our path.
We tend to spend a lot of time in “if only” land. “If only” I had a better upbringing, a different job, a larger house, more money, and on and on. Suffering only happens when we want things in our lives to be different than they are. The key to being happy and free from suffering is seeing all situations in our lives as meaningful to our spiritual growth, even those situations we do not like, or want.
Another cause for pain and suffering is being attached to outcomes. We want life the way our minds imagined it. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way!” Attachment to outcomes means we often miss necessary lessons. Ultimately, life happens in the way needed for us to learn, to grow spiritually.
Non-attachment to outcomes was a big lesson I learned on the path of illness and death with my significant other, Brent. He believed life is. Wanting it to be different was at best, an effort in futility. People diagnosed with terrible diseases can spend a lot of time chasing cures, tracking down doctors, hospitals, alternative therapies—whatever and wherever—in an attempt to change the outcome. Brent didn’t choose that path. He didn’t want to spend the time he had trying to alter a probably inevitable outcome—his death. Rather, he embraced it because he believed in “going with the flow” of life, not wanting life to be different. He knew the secret of living a happy, fearless life—allowing things to be as they are.
Another lesson I learned on this path with Brent was that crisis brings an opportunity to stretch oneself spiritually, to realize what is important in life and what is not, to become a more compassionate, caring, loving individual. If we see all events as opportunities to grow, we begin to understand their meaning in our life. We bring meaning to life through all of our experiences, even those unexpected and unwanted ones. Perhaps all is good! We just need a different perspective.
We are always connected to the entire universe and all beings in it. When we live in opposition to this—to what is—we fight against life and go off balance. We create stress, enhance fears, cause suffering and illness.
Nothing is all good or all bad. “Bad” situations and circumstances can produce wonderful opportunities. What is “good” can often result in some “bad” events. Allowing life to flow, while releasing attachments to opinions and preferences gives us true freedom to enjoy life and be grateful for what we have.
Our practice of non-attachment helps us have peace in our death. Learning to live without fear and embracing what is, prepares us for a “good” death. A good death is dying consciously, not clinging to our physical bodies or yearning to stay in this life.
Death is an individual process. No one can die for us. Those feeling sad for the loss of a loved one, might find comfort in realizing the one who physically dies remains spiritually present.
After my journey with Brent and watching Brent embrace his own death, I came to understand there is value in the dying process. Even the suffering that comes with it holds meaning and purpose, thus creating a good death. Helping our loved ones have a good death is the best gift we can give them.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Phoenix-based author and practicing Buddhist, CLARE GOLDSBERRY wrote The Illusion of Life and Death: Mind, Consciousness, and Eternal Being after her partner Brent’s illness and death to share the beautiful way he embraced his cancer as an “adventure” and to help people understand that learning to live life to the fullest helps us have a good death — a death without fear.
On the web
ClareGoldsberry.com. For an audio and YouTube interview and discussion with Clare, go to:
THE ILLUSION OF LIFE AND DEATH: MIND, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND ETERNAL BEING BY CLARE GOLDSBERRY, with a Foreword by Richard Smoley, published by Monkfish, paperback (254 pages).