Gasping: Encounters with Mortality

“Fuck heightened consciousness – we aren’t birds. Fuck transcendence addiction masquerading as evolution. Fuck ‘non-duality’ that conveniently removes everything uncomfortable from the unified field. Fuck ‘enlightenment’ without integrity. Fuck patriarchal detachment models presented as ‘the’ royal road to the ‘Kingdom’  of God – what about the Queendom? (Our only hope). Fuck ‘The New Earth’ as described by dissociative disembodied pain bypassers. Fuck the yoga ‘industry’ that feigns awareness it does not hold. Fuck vertical spirituality that ignores what is happening before our very eyes. Fuck the bullshit soulebrities who don’t give a shit about humanity. Fuck the guru who imagines himself realized. Fuck the New Cage movement and its trail of lies. Fuck any version of spirituality that doesn’t SERVE humanity. Fuck the story bashers. Fuck the victim bashers. Fuck the bloodied spiritual lie. Embrace enrealtment – before it’s too fucking late.” Jeff Brown

On three separate occasions, I’ve found myself on the verge of life and death: gasping for one more breath.

On three separate occasions, I’ve stared at my mortality directly in her eyes.

I have yet to find an experience that makes me feel more helpless than gasping for air;  than begging for life source.

“It occurred to me that my relationship with statistics changed as soon as I became one.” (Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air)

The bargaining in those moments is larger than the words ‘pleading’ or ‘begging’. There is no greater psychic wound that that which develops in the moments in which we’re holding on to our life.

All three times have been life-altering experiences. Each time, though I’ve survived in the flesh, I’ve experienced a metaphorical death. Although my consciousness has moved forth with the human experience, whom I was before and after these three experiences has not remained the same.

Today, I think of every being that just months ago was simply trying to manage their hypertension, was recently diagnosed with heart failure with a low ejection fraction, or a recent aggressive cancer diagnosis – the list of potential co-morbidity combinations is endless. All humans have different medical and concomitant medication histories.

I think of each of those beings and call out to the cosmos for their protection. We have science. We have technology. And unfortunately, they both have limitations. As Paul Kalanithi wrote in When Breath Becomes Air: “Yet the paradox is that scientific methodology is the product of human hands and thus cannot reach some permanent truth. We build scientific theories to organize and manipulate the world, to reduce phenomena into manageable units. Science is based on reproducibility and manufactured objectivity. As strong as that makes its ability to generate claims about matter and energy, it also makes scientific knowledge inapplicable to the existential, visceral nature of human life, which is unique and subjective and unpredictable. Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.”

Just a month ago, perhaps these beings were trying to work with their healthcare providers in identifying better ways to manage the symptoms of their chronic illness(es). Perhaps they had just started a new set of therapeutic interventions (already in the market). Perhaps, they were identified as candidates for a clinical trial. Regardless of the path they chose with their healthcare providers, there was perhaps a glimmer of hope.

*The invisible enters. Fast forward to today.*

A novel virus enters the infectious and communicable disease human landscape and all of our lives are radically changed.

The Western World has always had difficulty grappling the invisible.  Do you mean to tell me this threat is microscopic?”

That patient with uncontrolled hypertension? They’re gasping for one more breath in the same way that I have done before. They’re now on a ventilator.

That patient with heart failure and a low ejection fraction? They’re gasping for one more breath in the same way that I have done before. They’re now on a ventilator.

That patient with a recently diagnosed aggressive cancer? They’re gasping for one more breath in the same way that I have done before. They’re now on a ventilator.

I sit on the edge of my bed after the privilege of having worked another day. I recognize the privilege of showering with soap. I recognize the privilege of the ability to spend time inside a house full of food. I recognize the privilege of having been able to pay rent this morning. I recognize the privilege of having a full day replete with inhales and exhales – healthy lungs to their fullest capacity. I go on with my day – breathing in, breathing out without any sign of labored breathing. With lungs like mine I could easily walk down a path where I convince myself of a fallacy – my invincibility: “The current reality is not my problem. I’m superior to everyone else because I’ve managed to take care of myself AND I hit the genetic lottery. I’m superior to everyone else because I’ve “worked” harder than everyone else so I have a good job.” How many fucking meritocratic lies do I have to tell myself so that I can remain seated in my throne of superiority and continue to point fingers at anyone whom is suffering? Perhaps the solution lies in someone pretending to care about humanity enough to charge these “lesser folks” thousands of dollars a minute to teach them how to have more confidence and manifest their dream life. At which point do we point the fucking finger to the archaic, useless systems and structures (governmental and economic) that we continue to uphold and support? I’m so sick of the bullshit.

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“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything…the problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.” (Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air)

I then remember the three instances in which I almost drowned. The instances in which I required intervention outside of myself to stay on this planet for one more for day. The days in which I entered the valley of death and I conversed with my mortality about my prognosis: Will I stick around as a conscious being for a bit longer or is my body wanting to surrender into the great unknown? The memories of my drownings ground me back to this reality – it might be them today, but it might be me tomorrow.

None of us are exempt from a visit from the angel of death, for whatever reason, at any point in time.

“Life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.” Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

There is no amount of love and light that can erase the psychic pain we are collectively experiencing.

Today I think of those patients:

I think of the patient with uncontrolled hypertension that was not only a patient but a father, a husband, and a beloved local community leader.

I think of that patient with heart failure with a low ejection fraction that was not only a patient, but a grandmother, a volunteer, and an active member of her church community.

I think of the patient with the recent aggressive cancer diagnosis who was not only a patient, but a father and a husband.  Excited that his daughter was recently engaged. His focus in treating his cancer was “I want to make it to her wedding day.”

Instead, they’re gasping for one more breath. Instead they’re on ventilators  holding on for dear life.

Today, my heart goes out to all of those that are making their way through the valley of death physically on their on. Today, my heart goes out to the family members and loved ones that have suddenly had to learn how to connect with their dying loved ones  telepathically, virtually as they transition into a different form of being from the confines of a hospital bed. As their bodies engage in a battle between life and death –  prematurely –  without a familiar hand to hold throughout the process. For many, far earlier than they may have expected. We’re all going to die some day, but sometimes death comes as a surprise, for reasons outside of our control. In those moments, loss aches much more deeply.

“Bereavement is not the truncation of (married) love,” C. S. Lewis wrote, “but one of its regular phases—like the honeymoon.” (Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air)

Today, I hold space for those beings in my heart. May their crossing over be peaceful. May their memories live on in their loved ones hearts.

Today I hold space for dark shadows as those ones suffering transition into realms of light.

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