Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club
How to Survive Life (and Death)
A Guide for Happiness in This World and Beyond
By Robert Kopecky
Book Excerpt: "An Introduction to Aloha"
My own unexpected Near Death Experiences (NDEs for short) put everything in a new context for me, and made me replace a lot of our common assumptions about dying and about preparing for death—all those typically solemn considerations, attitudes, and arrangements that supposedly must be observed, but that don't really have all that much to do with what's happening here and now. As death is part of a continuing cycle of Life, our approach has to be more about where we are in this life in every moment, and so where we will be—especially if we find our time is suddenly a lot shorter than we had expected it to be. Or especially if it's not.
I realized it all required adopting a different perspective, one that included not only my brief views from the other side, but also a somewhat radically different approach to living life in general. I say somewhat because, for many people, nothing I suggest will seem like a stretch at all. For others, however, it may seem very radical indeed, and it will need to be to break open the old frozen status quo and force the creation of a more practical and effective way to live. For me, it meant embracing the new reality I'd been given by revising some basic fears and assumptions I'd had about death—and, less obviously, about life as well.
For example, consider this twist, if you will: As scary as dying may seem to us, it really isn't as scary as being born. It just doesn't feel that way because we have so much time to think about dying. But consider, if you will, all the momentous determinations that are happening to us when we're being born. Didn't you ever wonder why most babies come into this world screaming and crying with such heart-felt conviction? What do they know that we seem to have forgotten? A doctor may suggest that it's just because they need to start their lungs functioning, but couldn't that be done just as well by laughing hilariously? You don't see that very often, do you? Babies laughing out loud when they're born? Not nearly as often as you see a seasoned old soul calmly and blissfully "passing away."
Or just imagine being a teenager; return to the mental state you were in then. I dare you. Some folks may relish the opportunity. I would personally find it absolutely terrifying—like driving a race car with no steering. That's one thing I feel Life got totally backward. It would be fine if old age and death came along before you'd learned all that much about Life, but wouldn't it have been nice to have had a little more preparation for being a teenager? To have known a good deal more about Life and all its romantic ramifications prior to the onset of so momentous a challenge as puberty? After all, it is an awful lot for a relative newcomer to have to deal with.
Since it's likely that nothing ahead can be all that much worse than the scariest parts of life that you've gotten through already, and since most of us have suffered plenty of serious slings and arrows and experienced our fair share of fear by now, you needn't be afraid of how to handle an uncertain future, or of leaving unfinished business behind. Those are issues that can be addressed fairly easily in a few simple steps. So, since it is probably always "downhill from here" in any number of ways, you can know with assurance in your heart that many of the hardest parts of your life are already behind you. There's always going to be a couple of somewhat difficult bumps in the road ahead, but not like anything you haven't seen before in one form or another. The same themes simply recur in a slightly different arrangement. It may look like new territory because you haven't been through that specific experience yet. But still, it's all in the course of Life with all its very familiar complications.
Dealing with the death that's in all of our futures appears to be the one really difficult commitment we all share, because it seems so frighteningly different from anything else in our lives. But what I'm saying is that it isn't. When it happened to me, it actually felt very familiar. And unlike many of the difficult situations I've had to meet in my life, once I was into it, it was not hard at all. It was very easy and surprisingly comfortable. Mind you, it was still an unexpected challenge, but not at all as bad as many of life's continuing difficulties can be—like going to court or having oral surgery, for example. In fact, dying felt like a substantial relief, and I didn't really even have much of anything wrong with me. Two out of the three times, I was perfectly healthy. In fact, my life was not-so-bad to quite good. But
even at that, "dying" felt like having a big weight removed from my shoulders.