What you believe happens when you die depends entirely on what you believe is happening while you are alive. While my understanding of such things is rooted in my contemplative practice, the language I use to articulate my understanding comes from the Hebrew Bible, specifically the Book of Genesis.
My spoiled brat has taken to waking me up in the middle the night over the past year…often at around 3:00 AM. He likes to get up early and apparently he wants company. He’s good at getting it too. He likes to remind my reactive self of every reason to tackle one “problem” or another immediately…often with the result of causing two additional problems. He likes to remind me of how my life sucks next to the lives of others. Comparison is one of his favorite late night games. He knows every weakness in my psyche and seems to love playing at the master control board of my neuroses, periodically flipping the “throw a pity party” switch…and I have duly obliged him all too often.
This past March I went to a week-long silent retreat at a buddhist monastery in the wooded hills of West Virginia (yes, West Virginia). It is a beautiful, simple place. No talking unless absolutely necessary. Up at 5am for the first sit at 6. No food after noon. To someone who happened upon the place unknowingly we may have looked half catatonic and rather unhappy – as if we had been sent there against our will and were not allowed to leave.