By Ty H. Phillips
In the middle of 2011 I was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome.
I was experiencing massive heart failure and was told that I was dying. As one can imagine, the threat of my mortality looming immanently had a profound effect on my psyche, as did the surgeries and long hospital stays. I became obsessed, so to speak, with the idea of death and dying and what I was going to experience.
I read Stiff, No Death No Fear, Paranormal and myriads of other texts on what I may or may not experience.
During the course of my illness, I was pushed back into a tradition that I had studied for over two decades and had fallen away from; Buddhism. I also ran across two books that would profoundly change my outlook on my experience; Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and Chogyam Trungpa’s text on the Tibetan Book of The Dead and his very western and psychological approach to teaching it to us.
As I am now in full recovery and going on six years of good health and physical strength, I was extremely excited when Wisdom sent me Awakening From The Daydream by David Nitchtern, a noted Buddhist teacher and long time student of Trungpa Rinpoche.
The text is simply put, fantastic.
Like Trungpa, Nichtern teaches the Wheel of Life more as stages of psychological health than as literal levels of hell. While he does address the traditional stance they represented, the text itself falls very much in line with states of emotional well being or ill being that we face from moment to moment, day to day and year to year.
His text is readable, relatable, humorous, and accessible.
What I found most coincidental is the timing of when I came across both texts. The first time I was dealing with my ill health and the very looming reality of death and dying (not in the distant future but imminently) and the second time, going through a transition of separation from a long term relationship and into the arms and confusions of a new one.
Maybe it was more than coincidence?
I will not give you a step by step, chapter by chapter breakdown like so many fifth grade book reports, but instead I will tell you that his text, much like that of Trungpa’s, was exactly what I needed when I needed it. It was direct, honest, simple and yet wholly depthful. It was a direct look into the mirror of my life, our lives, as we are living them and the emotional hills and valleys that we traverse.
There are few books that I can recommend wholeheartedly. Nichtern’s Awakening From the Daydream, however, happens to be one of them that I can.
It is a wholehearted lesson on living and dying and interacting with our lives as a whole.
Photo: (Wisdom Publications)
Editor: Dana Gornall