The Sacred Threshold: The Dissolution of the Elements

Mortality and Art (artist talk) at Memoria: A fine art installation exploring life, death and the infinite by Alex Peckham.
Wednesday 19th July, Phoenix Gallery, Brighton.

In the West, death is viewed as a tragic and horrible event. For us as caregivers and witnesses, this view generates fear and denial, which harms the dying person by adding unnecessary loneliness, confusion and mental anguish to their dying process; a unique event that no living person has ever experienced! Tibetan Buddhism focuses on the nature of death and how to face it with honesty, openness and courage, seeing death as not a failure but a natural part of life, offering the dying and their loved ones opportunities to gain valuable insight and wisdom.

Part of the practical teachings in Tibetan Book of the Dead focusses on the physical stages of dying, as per relevance to other sacred texts such as the Bible and Ars Moriendi. These outlooks can be useful antidotes to our western culture of fear and denial that surrounds death and can help promote more honest, compassionate care to the dying.

To accompany Memoria show, I will explore the four stages of elemental dissolution to death – Earth, Water, Fire, Air – as a visual artist working in the field of death and dying, a healthcare professional caring for people at the end of life and a Soul Midwife in training. But also, as a human being that is not separate from the elemental rhythms of nature – cosmic, seasons, biorhythms, astrological, of flora and fauna. To perceive and understand the dying process as one of the extraordinary acts of nature is to embrace curiosity, acceptance and celebration of living.