HELPING AFTER DEATH 319 and sparkling, the source of all healing. He sits serenely on a lotus blossom, ringed by a shimmering sphere of light. Think of him as infinitely warm and loving, a sun of bliss, comfort, peace, and healing. Open your heart, let out all your suffering; cry out for help. And say his mantra: OM AH HUM VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUM. Imagine now thousands of rays of light streaming out of his body or from his heart: Imagine that the nectar of Great Bliss in the skull cup in his hands overflows with joy and pours down over you in a continuous stream of soothing, golden liquid light. It flows into your heart, filling it and transforming your suffering into bliss. This nectar flow from the Padmasambhava of Great Bliss is the wonderful practice that my master used to teach: it has never failed to give me great inspiration and help in times of real need. 4. Helping Those Who Have Died As you do this practice again and again, saying the mantra and filling your heart with bliss, slowly your suffering will dissolve in the confident peace of the nature of your mind. You will realize, with joy and delight, that the buddhas are not outside of you but always with you, inseparable from the nature of your mind. And what they have done through their blessing is to empower and nourish you with the confidence of the buddha within you. Now, with all the power and confidence this practice has given you, imagine you are sending this blessing, the light of healing compassion of the enlightened beings, to your loved one who has died. This is especially vital in the case of someone who has suffered a traumatic death, as it transforms their suffering and brings them peace and bliss. In the past, you may have felt helpless in your grief and impotent to help your dear friend, but now through this practice you can feel consoled, encouraged, and empowered to help the dead person. KEEPING THE HEART OPEN Don't expect immediate results, or a miracle. It may only be after a while, or even much later, when you least expect it, that your suffering will shift. Do not have any expectation that it is going to "work," and end your grief once and for all. Be open to your grief, as open as you are to the enlightened beings and buddhas in the practice.
320 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING You may even come to feel mysteriously grateful toward your suffering, because it gives you such an opportunity of working through it and transforming it. Without it you would never have been able to discover that hidden in the nature and depths of suffering is a treasure of bliss. The times when you are suffering can be those when you are most open, and where you are extremely vulnerable can be where your greatest strength really lies. Say to yourself then: "I am not going to run away from this suffering. I want to use it in the best and richest way I can, so that I can become more compassionate and more helpful to others." Suffering, after all, can teach us about compassion. If you suffer you will know how it is when others suffer. And if you are in a position to help others, it is through your suffering that you will find the understanding and compassion to do so. So whatever you do, don't shut off your pain; accept your pain and remain vulnerable. However desperate you become, accept your pain as it is, because it is in fact trying to hand you a priceless gift: the chance of discovering, through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow. "Grief," Rumi wrote, "can be the garden of compassion." If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. And don't we know, only too well, that protection from pain doesn't work, and that when we try to defend ourselves from suffering, we only suffer more and don't learn what we can from the experience? As Rilke wrote, the protected heart that is "never exposed to loss, innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness; only the won-back heart can ever be satisfied: free, through all it has given up, to rejoice in its mastery." 8 ENDING GRIEF AND LEARNING THROUGH GRIEF When you are overwhelmed by your suffering, try to inspire yourself in one of those many ways I mentioned when I spoke of meditation practice in Chapter 5, "Bringing the Mind Home." One of the most powerful methods I have found to soothe and dissolve sorrow is to go into nature, and especially to standand contemplate by a waterfall, and let your tears and grief pour out of you and purify you, like the water flowing down. Or you could read a moving text on impermanence or sorrow, and let its wisdom bring you solace. To accept and end grief is possible. One way that many