Yesterday, I had the good fortune to open a book. It was a wife’s personal account of her husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The particular page I came to related how her husband could often not speak properly or organize his thoughts, and yet he was aware of what was happening to him. He had described some moments as being “without thought.” The wife wondered whether or not this was similar to “the space between thoughts in meditation.”
To me, the answer seemed clear: same reality, different subjective experience. If her husband had already experienced the empty space of meditation, then perhaps he was able to take solace in losing his critical faculties. Nothing lasts forever, even this virtual self we look to so often for solace, and which is so often a source of suffering and confusion. On the other hand, if he had not had this experience, then losing the ego would be a source of great fear and anxiety.
Personally, this account brought some resolution: maybe it is just the space. Experiencing the space and accepting it seem to be different things. In dharma practice, we often talk about death as being the greatest opportunity for liberation in this lifetime. Other than sleep, it is the moment when wisdom fully dawns and the clear light is free of obstructions. The gross and subtle obscurations flee with the dying of the body. In my mind, we have divested ourselves of all sense of self and are simply free as we are. If we can see that.