Transcending Barriers while Life Meets Death

by Miki Kashtan

In this time, so full of pain and challenge, I was unexpectedly nourished by an email I received from someone who is consciously, purposefully trying to live applied NVC and Conflict Transformation in work and life, currently doing it in Eastern Sri Lanka. I am sharing an abridged version of her words here, with her permission, because I continue to be inspired and transformed repeatedly by her description of an encounter with a strange man dying of a violent act. I bolded the part that is most inspiring to me, in case you want to go straight there.

Dear Miki

A man was stabbed [here in Sri Lanka]. I didn’t see it, but heard all the shouting. No one would attend to him, I know this, it’s too risky for locals, they will be targeted for ‘helping the enemy’, so I ran to him, tried to stop the bleeding. But he bled out, there, on the ground, in my arms.

And as I restore myself after a week of a variety of forms of violence, I think of the man who died in my arms.

…I got to be with a human in his final moments of being alive in this form. I held him. Stranger and stranger together, meeting for the first time, for the most real moment two humans could ever experience. We held each other in our eyes. In this tragic act we were reunited from the myth of separation that this world has brought between us, making us think we are separate just because we didn’t meet yet and lived different lives with different languages and countries and religions, making us disconnected from the truth that, even as strangers, we need each other for our survival and wellbeing.

In these final moments of our life forms meeting, we liberated ourselves, restored and rehumanized ourselves beyond the conditioning.

Sometimes I need reminding not to try to understand it all with my mind, and just be here, among it, part of it.

Photo by Remi Walle

Reading this, I noticed my heart open and open to something that felt like a secret being revealed, as if a little piece of the sacredness of life was shown to me, or maybe an imperceptible healing of some of our collective trauma of separation.

And then…

Since I decided to share this, I’ve had another exchange about it with someone else, who brought to the foreground another layer of complexity: that there’s no way of knowing what the dying man’s experience was; that this was an even more significant moment for him, and any statement about what he was experiencing in some way could be dishonoring of him and of the mystery of his life. I’ve reflected on this for a while now, wondering to myself just how much we can know or intuit about another person’s experience without explicitly naming it with them, which obviously isn’t possible in the moments that the email described.

I welcome this reminder about how little we ultimately know. How much harm has been done in the name of knowing a truth, however beautiful that truth might appear. I want to embrace humility even when it seems, as I know it did to the woman who wrote to me, that the experience was so clear and fully shared. And I am including this reminder here to encourage us all to do so.

The woman who wrote to me also grappled with another theme I want to highlight: how can any of us live with the amount of pain that keeping our eyes open inevitably exposes within and around us? She said:

How do you, we, hold the pain. We do. I see that you do. I see that you have found your way. This inspires me to ‘be me’. After years of believing that being heartbroken again and again means I’m not living with it, I’m not ‘coping’, I’m falling short somehow, I now see that allowing myself to be heartbroken, fully, without resistance, walking forward into more, is me living with the pain. And that feels good!

Humility and heartbreak, so apt for our times of anguish and uncertainty.

May our lives support us in breaking open to pain, all around us, so we can be more alive, so we can meet life fully, so we have a chance to be fully ourselves, till the last moments, without knowing.


INVITATION: To discuss this and other posts with me and other readers of this blog, check in to the free Fearless Heart Teleseminars. Next dates:
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Monday, January 26, 2018, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm PT

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Image Credit: Untitled by Remi Walle, licensed from Unsplash

5 thoughts on “Transcending Barriers while Life Meets Death

  1. John L Backman

    I cannot understand it with my mind either. I can just share what this important article brought up for me. The number of times I have sat with a dying animal in my arms at their moment of death, and the utter awe-inspiring sacredness that moment carried. The thought (the humbling thought) in my Buddhist-beginner’s mind that the dying man may have had the same profound experience as your colleague–or he may have been thinking, “Ouch.” The knowledge that, in my current news brownout, I may have cut myself off from holding the pain as well as from the ceaseless repetition that creates our continuous media noise. And the knowledge that I don’t have a clue how to fix that. It would be lovely to find a grand theme or insight in all this, but I don’t see it right now.

  2. Brenda

    Savoring the mystery of love and the sacred in those moments. I am touched by the opening of heart to another life, and the mystery of love. I trust the knowing of the eyes. Thank you for this sharing.

  3. marahcefyne


    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your view of the world corresponds closely to mine. I am passionate about conversations concerning people who are dying. Even am developing a website for this topic. Also, one of my most favorite of your articles is the “Can I”. I explained the “Can I” concept to my 10 year old granddaughter. She is 15 now and I ask her friends to use different wording. They are so cute, they actually get it and even remind me when I use it.

  4. btbrowne

    This writing helps validate my current project I’m creating. It’s an online therapeutic process where people share their stories in an effort to overcome an obstacle.

    The most important thing about this sharing is to Not give ideas to each other, but rather to let each person talk out loud through writing their stories, be heard by others, and for others to respect that we don’t have the whole story, and that the person who does have the whole story will figure things out from her/is own inner resources.

    While conversation is a natural and wonderful gift humans share, so is respecting the wholeness of another, and that at times, it’s a good thing to stop asking questions and trying to figure out others, and be ok with silence, and letting a person just talk without being rerouted through our curiosity or ‘intelligent’ questioning.


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