Let me offer you an article that will perhaps surprise you, perhaps even shock you, since I will talk about death. And therefore necessarily of life.
I wrote this article in April 2012 when responding to a friend about her health concerns which arose at a pivotal time in her life when letting go of old contracts and entering a new phase of her existence. Her health affected her to the point that she has just entered the hospital. At the same time, relentless cancer harassed another friend of mine, a mother of 3. She and her family came across fundamental questions with no room to push them away. Illness took her unceremoniously.
And then, two months before, I had accompanied a friend until his last moments. He and I had many opportunities to discuss his life path, the meaning of death, and his departure. I already had the honor of accompanying people to the threshold of their lives. It will happen again. I enter the age when the generation that preceded me thins out. Cancer and various diseases have joined my daily life. I see farewells multiplying.
Something to inspire the words that follow…
I will not use theory here. I only have my experience to share. The words at our disposal to evoke the inner adventure seem vague and weighed down with religious history, which adds to the complexity. We lack a precise language, engineering of the experiences we live beyond the visible horizon. Spiritual traditions have put a lot of effort into this, but each time religions, in their mechanisms of social control, have diverted and deviated the words from their original meaning. Therefore, in this concern for precision that animates me here, I usually employ a particular ontological corpus: that of Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo, of whom I share a quote in this post, offers us a concise, rigorous, and exhaustive vocabulary, which applies well to the contemporary spiritual experience. A modern, universal ontology because Aurobindo’s immense erudition extended as much in western culture as in the eastern one. We can find rooted in Aurobindo’s ontology, the works of Ken Wilber, certainly more contemporary and which have so much influence today.
Beyond the disparity of religions, spiritual practices, ontologies, myths, and metaphors, my travels have allowed me to see the total and absolute oneness of the direct experience. All mystics on the planet, I mean those who stroll consciousness through direct experience, experience the same things, sequences, stages in their journey. Humanity has shed blood and committed genocides while arguing over maps and ways of describing the inner cosmos (humanity loves it so much it does not seem done with it). Still, no significant mystic-seeker can argue about direct experience.
For example, when I speak of a word such as the soul, I do not operate from a personal opinion or belief. The soul comes from my direct experience, from years of exploration, introspection, inner journeys, meditation, corroboration of others’ experiences, studies of dreams… An experience that I could share with any other researcher-explorer who has already sufficiently investigated, even if his/her vocabulary differs.
Therefore, if you have not experienced the soul yourself — to only name it — do not dismiss what I say. Stay rational.. One should not confuse rationality with materialism. Rationality takes us to the antipodes of belief. It implies that we do not refute something on the pretext that we have not seen it or not yet encountered it. We then become able to keep unresolved questions, and unanswered question marks deep within ourselves. Opinions have no place here.
I wanted to ask that before going any further.
I now come back to health with a first premise: I do not define health as the absence of disease, any more than I reduce it to a functionally healthy body. The lack of disease marks a kind of neutral state, ground zero. Health pushes the cursor towards a positive and active state that springs an unspeakable joy and a creative power of being that knows no limits. This joy and power live in the body, the psyche, our thoughts, gestures, sensory and sensual acuity, and our social balance—all of what health implies.
Most of the health concerns that I have observed, mine as well as those of others, seem to me inseparable from the psychic experience. They appear each time linked to the profound upheavals of our inner structure, these mutations that occur during the great earthquakes of existence: bereavements, births, lifestyle changes, stress, our love relationships, family tensions, separations, the collapse of our beliefs… As long as someone opens up enough to oneself, I have never seen a person not link their life story to the currently experienced illness.
I read bodies like an open book. I have a natural empathic perception that years of martial arts have helped me hone, just like osteopaths and many therapists. Nothing supernatural here.
Most people, for example, breathe poorly. Poor breathing typically expresses stress and various prohibitions rooted here and there in the body. Most people do not know how to shout either. To let out a genuine cry that comes from the depths of the entrails. Here again, it reveals the blockages, inner tensions, taboos… Most women have weakness in their shoulders, not because they lack physical strength, but simply because they have an unconscious social marker that stipulates that a woman should not have strength in her shoulders. The strength of the torso should only belong to the male, period. Worse still, most people do not know how to relax their muscles fully. I could go on and on, even though I merrily mention great evils present in almost everyone. Yes, virtually everyone lives in poor health. When we enter into each particular case, the blockages of the body appear as a mold that tells the psychic story of the person. A real novel…
We see through these examples the strength of a culture that imposes its architectures to the depths of the body. Unconsciously and non-verbally, compromises and self-blocking mechanisms normalize and mark out the individual and collective psyche. Mimicry and suggestiveness reproduce these mechanisms, from one person to another in space and from one generation to another in time. The body becomes a book in which we find the doxa. The socially submissive body thus participates in the sealing of the work of the Self.
Then health lets itself slide down a humming slope. Often gentle, sometimes abrupt. The body can undoubtedly remain functional for a long time – I admire its resistance! Irremediably, it calcifies, stiffens, and declines over the years until the day when the slope becomes an abyss. The time for a break-up has come. Suffering and disease come to ring the gong of awakening, that of consciousness.
Voluntarily and proactively offering oneself to a waking life causes a decisive break without the use of illness as a trigger. Consciousness takes matters into its own hands. Here, ready to take a giant leap. Each leap of consciousness forces us to reopen the book of the body, erase its bad contracts, rewrite its history. We will solicit the body strongly, even so strongly.
An authentic life accepts no middle ground or even compromise. No place left for lukewarmness. Everything becomes absolute and true. The being and the doing become undifferentiable. They become mirrors of each other. We live our relationships clearly, without lies, false politeness, or things left unsaid. We walk alongside those we have chosen, and we know why. We do not live in a place we do not like. We no longer work: we create. In other words, we only do what makes sense.
No stress has its place in the authentic life. Contrary to what many believe, the latter has nothing to do with the intensity of the things we experience. Stress exists because of the gap between being and doing.
Many believe that this authentic life that I describe, this joyful and creative life, involves an individualistic life centered on selfish pleasures alone. Let them dig and experiment before they say that as they talk about what they don’t know. When the gap between being and doing no longer exists, we give the best of ourselves to the world and receive the best from the world. We become a gift for ourselves and others. The symbiosis reaches its perfection. “Easier said than done!” the same people will often say. “And all the duties of life, children, the others, the commitments in society?” To them, I answer: when you see duty and not joy, do not do it. No one enjoys this as a favor when you carry around your bitterness, resentment, and bile. Worse, you spread it around you by contagion. Joy also tends to contagion, so choose the right disease.
Do not say you can not make your life joyful and free. Dig a little, and you will see the fallacy of this assertion. How many times a day do you tell yourself “I can not” when, if you look closely, most of the time, it all comes down to choices that you have buried and forgotten in your subconscious? You have, we all have, the power to choose. Always.
To extol this inner joy and freedom, should we see it as a well-educated and well-fed bourgeois thing? In that case, our Westernian bourgeois societies filled with the haves would teem with joyful, free, and creative people. That does not seem precisely the case to me. On the other hand, I have had plenty of time to observe that wisdom, joy, and happiness seem more frequent among those who have suffered and who have decided to become free and happy. This, I heard from relatives in the twilight of their lives. I do not say you have to suffer to become free and happy, but suffering makes an undeniable opener of consciousness. This certainly constitutes one of its functions. We take a big step when we no longer need to grow from suffering. We move forward proactively and willingly because we have learned to love it, because we adore the inner fire of radical truth, because we become more comfortable in the infinities of emptiness than encapsulated in the crumbly walls of illusion.
So I say that when choosing an utterly authentic life, the transition could lead to a drop in health. Sometimes, an actual dissolution process by disease declares itself “opportunely,” often cancer. The soul, deep down, chooses to let go of the old structure to, in the future, rebuild a new one, more adapted to the subsequent experiences and creations.
This happened to my friend Robert, whom I accompanied until his last moments. Shortly before he plunged into the altered states of consciousness caused by the agony, we remembered together this conversation we had had two years earlier, on the island of Reunion, when he had just experienced inner transformations and extreme shifts of consciousness. I had invited him to this vigilance of the body and had warned him that he might very well fall ill. On his hospital bed, Robert confirmed that this scenario had exactly taken place. His present being could not absorb, integrate, set in motion the consciousness living in him for the last two years. He also told me that he had no regrets. He felt deeply at peace.
Thus, at the time of the significant life changes, each of us can feel tremors in the body, the possible premises of an illness or an accident that will initiate the dissolution of our physical substance, more or less rapid, more or less violent. During this introspection, we can talk to our physical body, or rather talk in our body. We can declare our choices and decisions right down to the bottom of each cell. By declaring, I mean the absolute affirmation of what our soul desires. This art might appear difficult for most of us because we only want one thing: to stay alive! The temporal person wishes it, but not necessarily the soul. For those who have learned to listen to their soul, desire plays out outside the field of life and death. The soul posits the radical, first, ultimate, irrevocable intention. The form follows. What experience do we want to have? What other relationships? What do we want to create? At this moment, the soul must affirm its will to the body and the temporal person it incarnates.
My experience — personal and with loved ones whom I could accompany or whom I attend today — has shown me that the body can begin very profound changes without dying, provided that it has permission to dissolve if needed.
Actual permission, a total let-go. Indeed, if we give ourselves this permission of deconstruction, and this, in a free and authentic way, we authorize the body to make the transmutations that it wishes. Then, suddenly, everything unblocks. The freeway opens again to the infinite creativity of the soul, which can lead to a process of reconstruction, sometimes even very fast. Life forces regain the upper hand since we gave them room to rebuild and restructure if necessary.
This let-go never guarantees that life will resume. Otherwise, would we have a real let-go?
I see this same principle put into action when observing with delight my little boy playing with his Lego. He builds a creation — a spaceship. A few days later, this ship no longer satisfied him. Why? Several reasons: he may have gone through the possible experiences with this creation, he now wanted to move on to other experiences. He could also see insufficiencies, lacks, contradictions, errors in the structure; it also quite simply happened that he wanted to add functions or possibilities. In any case, he had to transform this structure. The dilemma presented itself: would he keep the work – the vessel – already so pretty to make it evolve? Or would it appear necessary to destroy everything, to rebuild even better? We could find a confrontation between an attachment to the form and the desire to destroy it to compose an entirely new form which, of course, would contain within it the acquired past experiences encoded in the structure. The Buddhist practice of sand mandalas stages this creative continuity through the impermanence of forms.
I see much more than a metaphor in games and artistic creation. The latest Lego adventure reflects exactly how the soul constructs its musical instrument in the matter. The soul, timeless, eternal, formless, insatiable artist, divine, ecstatic, both One in the Multiple and One in the One and by the One. Without knowing it, the child stages the same relationship between soul and body. When he plays, caught up in his creative passion and the strength of the game, the child goes so far as to forget himself. He becomes the character in motion. He embodies the game. At the end or during a rupture, the child remembers himself. So, during a break, he realizes that everything came from his creation. What will his next discovery, his next experience, look like? Towards what novelties will he direct his creative forces?
We live as creative beings, so innovative that we get so caught up in the game of life that we forget the original creative soul. Do we know how to play and create without forgetting ourselves? Yes, of course! Because then pleasure, joy, and creativity become fireworks. I speak from experience. I even see this as an essence from which we distill freedom. Could there exist any more incredible ecstasy than that of the composer wholly absorbed in the interpretation of his music? I do not know any.
For the human being who offers and unites himself with his soul, the soul becomes the one and only reality. Everything else, starting with the material, takes on a function of experiential and artistic space. Where we live in the illusion of an ultimate, hard, solid, external reality, we begin to see an art workshop in which we can wholly create, build, deconstruct in complete freedom. The soul operates there as an active and creative power. It invents realities and worlds and will settle there for a time. The ecstatic power of the creative being of itself has then no finality. In this full be-ic power, creation, deconstruction, re-creation become a grand game, a celebration of each breath, a permanent eroticism. Death preludes the next creation, more beautiful, even crazier.
I hear many people talk about their “connection” to the soul or the “listening” they have to their soul. We find here the first step, announced by an inner duality. At this stage, one does not yet identify with the soul. The soul speaks through the more or less thick partitions of the temporal being. We learn to listen to it. The more we listen, the more we embark on a path of veinstone delamination of the being. Little by little, the membranes, the partitions fall or melt, and the soul reveals itself as the composer, the interpreter, and the musician of everything.
Some experience this with a certain dramatic intensity while others go through joyful let-go –a question of choice, once again. We can experience Wagner’s tragic Death of Isolde or celebrate erotic ecstasy as Ravel does in his Concerto in G (here, the 2nd movement, listen to how we go from a tender lullaby to erotic dissonances that lead to an ecstatic outburst). You can also get lost in passionate and bloody rhythms (This is not a tango – Juju Orchestra) or let yourself ignite by the psychedelic colors of electro (Second Revelation – Doof).
In the Lego of matter, the soul builds its musical instrument – the person – and plays it, as one plays the piano or the harp. The soul plays Mr. Smith or Mrs. Hernandez, you, me. I call my musical instrument Jean-François Noubel. This instrument knows how to do some things well, and others it will never do. You do not make a trumpet sound with a piano (otherwise, I recommend you to call a tuner).
Regardless of the instrument: creative infinity opens up to us. Even with a tin can and a piece of wood. There lies our freedom, total, infinite. Many complain about the limitations of their instrument because they haven’t figured out how to play them well yet. They have not yet fully realized their incarnation. Lack of courage? Fear? Evolutionary process? I do not care about interpretations. As in the Lego case, you can refine your instrument, improve your practice, or destroy everything to build another instrument and another practice. The songwriter – singer – the soul – once again decides.
One day, the physical and temporal being ends up entering into perfect osmosis with the soul. We no longer experience it as a space of all efforts and limitations. All these discourses that make life a long, painful ascent, with stages, paths, sequences, religions, and maps, become obsolete. The instrument disappears. It leaves the center of attention to give way to music, infinite, universal, creator of its own substance, nourished by its own joy. It does not matter if the soul plays solo or with others. Does it take a rich, young and healthy existence to achieve this? Certainly not! I remind you that a tin can, a stick, and a lot of inner joy suffice to produce the most divine of rhythms which, in turn, nourishes happiness and builds mastery.
We then meet our greatest gift.
I started with the disease to then journey towards the soul. All this may seem like a series of digressions, so I can now recap in a few points:
- The health of the body offers itself as a mirror of the situations and transmutations operated by our soul;
- A profound evolution initiated by the soul can lead to failures of health, even to a complete destruction of the body;
- The more one becomes one’s soul, the more one understands and controls the mechanisms of physical existence, and the less one lets oneself traumatized by the life-death contrast;
- At all stages, we have a choice as to the music we will play.
I do not come with poetic metaphors. I offer my reality as I live it, as I can transmit it today, with my words and borrowings from others like Aurobindo.
If you belong to one of those to whom the soul whispers; if you have learned to listen to that little inner voice that knows (and always knows); if you already know, thanks to this listening, how to give new directions to your life then… surrender. Offer yourself more and more to this voice. You will make mistakes at first, but you will never regret them. This will sometimes put you in situations that seem terrifying, fanciful, unrealistic, suicidal, dangerous, irresponsible, or immoral, and which appears likely to anger those around you… Do not let it fool you: these simply work as Passage Tickets. Concentrate on the work currently inventing itself in you, even if it seems perfectly foreign to you. Listening to this voice will become the best gift you give to yourself and those you love.
If you know you will soon leave this life, and you will momentarily have to say goodbye to your loved ones, focus on what you can create, even if the time left seems short. Time has a little surface but a lot of depth. To tell each other the essential things, resolve conflicts, enter into creative joy, and make it contagious, a drop of time suffices. In a few moments, we can become the composer-performer freed from the false heaviness of the instrument or the illusions of our incompetence. Stripped of everything, we can finally see our true nature and state the essential things, those that make a world. So, beyond the tears of separation, a gentle presence sets in which will persist invisibly in others. By impregnation, your loved ones may experience the same passage as you: an inversion of reality. Matter becomes ephemeral and evanescent. The being takes on the ultimate consistency of everything.