Back Story: Feels Like Dying, Feels Like Bliss
I wrote this song after a period of loss. First my sister died, then my mother. I held their hands as they breathed their last breaths, and deeply felt these sacred encounters with impermanence. Yet their deaths were not unexpected.
Then came the moment when I watched on TV as Bernard Madoff was being led away in handcuffs. In that moment, twenty-seven years of retirement savings — all worldly security — vanished. For two nights I fantasized of growing old with no health care; of living in a cardboard box under the highway. In the midst of this free fall, with no safety net, the formless ground rose up to hold me. Yes, I will die. Yes, I will likely suffer along the way. And yes, all is well.
It was a time of discovering an enduring equanimity and a new kind of happiness growing out of the seeming ruins. Loss had brought a gift.
The Sufis seek to “die before death”. What “dies” is a sense of self that is kept cut off from the greater life due to a misguided idea of separateness. The one who dies is the one grasping desperately for control of the uncontrollable. It can take something so hard — divorce, cancer, unemployment, even environmental chaos — to reveal the ultimate grace of our situation.
And as the song says, there was no “cheap” way to get there.