Birth-Death: What is it?

All apparent forms—people, tables, chairs, atoms, quarks, planets, dogs, cats, consciousness, energy—are mental concepts reified and abstracted out of a seamless and boundless actuality that does not begin or end, for it is ever-present Here-Now. And whatever this boundless actuality is, it seems to have infinite viewpoints from which it can be seen, and infinite layers of density, from the most apparently solid to the most ephemeral and subtle. Ultimately, there is no way to say what this indivisible wholeness is. No label, concept or formulation—whether scientific or metaphysical—can capture the living actuality….

In my view, what happens after death is a flat earth question. Worrying about what happens to us when we die is like worrying about what happens to us if we fall off the edge of the earth. People used to worry about that, but their fear was based on a misunderstanding. Just as there is no edge to the earth, there is no actual boundary, no edge where life begins or ends. The things we are worrying about are all conceptual abstractions, artificially pulled out of the whole. Like the lines on a map dividing up the whole earth, birth and death are artificial dividing lines on an indivisible reality.

Just as no wave is ever really fixed in any permanent form or separate from the ocean, no person is ever actually a fixed or solid “thing” separate from the totality. This unbroken wholeness or unicity is ever-present as the still-point of Here-Now, and ever-changing as the thorough-going flux and impermanence of experience. This wholeness cannot be found or lost because it is all there is, and there is nothing and nowhere that is not it. Nothing stands apart from it to “get it” or “lose it,” and it never departs from itself. Stillness and movement, immutability and impermanence, mind and matter, are simply different ways of seeing and describing this indivisible actuality….

In death, this pattern of activity that we call “Joan” dissolves back into the larger field, the wholeness from which it has never actually been separate. We fall easily into attempts to pin down that ineffable wholeness as being this or that—primarily “consciousness” or primarily “matter.” Ultimately, whatever-this-is defies all attempts to grasp it and nail it down, for it is not an “it” in any way whatsoever. It is this, right here, right now. What is this? No word-label-concept, no explanation, no metaphysical theory or philosophy will ever contain the living actuality of this moment. The actuality itself is at once totally obvious and utterly mysterious. It is utterly beyond all attempts to control, understand or make sense of it. Nothing we say about reality is ever the truth. The words can only be a map, a pointer, a description, an approximation.

Excerpt from: Death: The End of Self-Improvement (available on Amazon)

https://www.joantollifson.com

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