I often feel that there is an association between the experience of holiness, of contemplation, and the experience of death. They all seem to have a similarity in experiencing and manifestation.
There seems to be several qualities they all contain:
- A sense of a ‘belonging’. This refers to a sense of being a part of something that one normally does not acknowledge or are aware of in their daily lives.
- A sense of ‘moving into’. This refers to a sense of oneself somehow ‘movinginto’ something or changing in some way. This could be like a change in state of mind or a sense of moving from one place to another.
These seem to be basic human qualities: they appear quite naturally.
Both these qualities are a basic element in the sense of holiness. There is a sense, usually, of something like a god, who we ‘belong’ to. In a way, god is the sense of ‘belonging’. Its a sense of ‘belonging’ not to a person or an object, but something more than that: to existence, to being. Many people cannot sense god because they do not feel any ‘belonging’ to existence and beingness.
Coupled with this feeling, is a sense of being somehow ‘transformed’ or ‘changed’. We become different from who we normally are. We’ve ‘moved’ into something else, like a different state of mind. We may even feel we are a different person.
These two, together, give us a sense of being ‘holy’ or ‘in holiness’.
These qualities are also found in some states of contemplation. In many ways, contemplation is the seeking of the sense of holiness. Here we actively seek this sense, questing after it. It’s no mistake that a big part of contemplation consist of different ways to:
- Develop a sense of ‘god’.
- Change ones state of mind.
These correspond to the two qualities above. In many ways, these are the basic constituents of contemplation. We ‘practice’ and ‘develop’ these senses to seek after the sense of holiness. Since contemplation is a form of prayer it means that these are the basic constituents of prayer as well.
In the accounts of death we hear of these qualities as well. We often hear of a ‘moving toward a light’, or a blackness, or a presence or some other thing, which is a sense of a change in oneself or a ‘moving into’. Often, in this light, or whatever it may be, there is a sense of something like a god, or ancestors, or family, or some other thing which we feel a ‘belonging’ to. This, I am told, can be quite comforting in death.
THE ‘EXPERIENCE OF LIFE’
It’s interesting that contemplation is associated with the experience of death. In a way, its like seeking the experience of death. But this is not done to die but, rather, to live. This seems to suggest that these two qualities are part of the basic elements in the ‘experience of life’. It shouldn’t be surprising that, in death, we experience similar feelings. This is because, when we die, our ‘life’ is passing away. As a result, everything else fades and only that ‘sense that matters’ persists, the most basic of experiencing is felt. If this were the case it would mean that ‘life’ is experienced most fully with these two qualities, that they are the basic constituents that ‘make up’ the ‘experience of life’.
It’s also quite interesting that when we do something that makes us feel ‘alive’ we also experience similar feelings, except more mildly. Do we not feel that we are a part of (or ‘belong’) to what we’re doing, that we, in a sense, ‘become’ what we’re doing? Do we not feel that we are removed from ourselves and have gone beyond our normal selves? In so doing we ‘live’.
Not only that, do we not experience similar things when we do things we enjoy or when we are happy?
This seems to suggest a spectrum to this ‘experience of life’:
enjoyment in things–feeling ‘alive’–contemplation/prayer–holiness–death
This is interesting in that the ‘enjoyment’ of things is associated with the experience of death. Or, to be more precise, they entail a similarity in consciousness.
I tend to feel that this is significant and important because they show traits of a basic consciousness that we have. In many ways, these two qualities can possibly be described as one of the most basic and simplest consciousness we have, since they are based in the ‘experience of life’. All other aspects of life are built upon these two qualities.
Being that this is the case, it is good to seek these qualities in life, to practice them, and develop them. This would mean doing things like:
- Developing a sense of ‘belonging’, that we belong to life, to god, or what have you, and in seeking something to ‘belong’ to.
- Seeking to lose a sense of oneself, and to change oneself, and of going above oneself.
These are such a part of life that, really, we need to not necessarily ‘do’ them but watch for them and let them happen. As many contemplatives know, these things cannot be forced or willed to happen. A person must be ‘open’ to them more than anything else. By being open and watchful one will find that these qualities are far more prevalent in life than what it may seem. But, because there is a spectrum, it would be wise to practice other things on that spectrum, such as learning to be happy (enjoy oneself), having a prayerful-like attitude and reflecting on death.