Friday, May 2, 2014

One Final Regret

There are close to 40,000 individuals who take their life by suicide each year. It is estimated that there are close to a million others who attempt suicide but don't succeed.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is the place where there are more suicides than any other place in America.

People are known to have boarded a plane and flown to San Francisco so they could end their lives jumping off this iconic structure. What is it that causes someone to engage in one of societies gravest taboos? Why do people kill themselves?

 Marissa Imrie was only 14 years old when she jumped to her death from "The Bridge." She left a one sentence suicide note:

 "Everyone is better off without this fat, disgusting, boring girl."

Marissa was experiencing what suicide experts call a sense of "thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness." She didn't think anyone cared about her, didn't fit in with others, or had anyone to support her. She felt her life was a burden to the entire world and the world would be a better off without her.

Suicidal behavior arises from an extreme perception of separateness: one of the darkest delusions of the human experience. A sense that one is completely alienated from the rest of the world. A belief that nothing can be done to relieve one's suffering. When this belief becomes strong enough, suicide becomes an attactive alternative to living. Why? Because throughout our lives we learn from our experience that one way to escape pain is to engage in any behavior that removes it. Some people eat too much, some drink to much, some become violent - there are so many ways that our ego-mind attempts to control our painful feelings and thoughts. And yet, paradoxically, it is this very mind that is the source of our pain. It is this mind that separates us from our truest self. A self that is the connection of all things. A sense of connection that is so complete, that once it is realized, any trace of seperateness evaporates in an instant revealing our very nature as connection itself. The result is the deepest experience of belonging we will ever realize. A realization that each and everyone one of us is perfect and complete just as we are and that our life is a beautiful gift and expression of the entire universe.

It is believed that 1,300 people have attempted suicide off of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is estimated that someone jumps off this bridge every other week. Almost no one survives the fall. But those that do survive often say that as they approached the moment of their death, they had an astonishing realization.

The following account was written by reporter Kevin Caruso in 2007.

"It was in September of 2000 when Kevin was in high school and he started to hallucinate and hear voices because of his disorder. After a while, he couldn’t cope any longer, and one day when the hallucinations and voices were particularly intense, he decided to kill himself.

So he took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. He cried the entire trip, knowing that his life would soon be over, but also believing that he had to kill himself to end his torment.

“I had heard that the Golden Gate Bridge was the easiest way to die. I heard that you hit the water and you're dead,” Kevin said. “And I remember picking the spot. This is the good spot. I'm not too close to the pillar. I won't hit the pillar. I'm not too close to the land. I won't hit the land. I'll hit the water and I'll die.”

Kevin was ready to kill himself.

But as he walked along, some indecisiveness crept in. He wanted someone to help him; he wanted someone to show him that he or she cared. So he began crying as he walked, silently reaching out for help. A female police officer rode by on a bicycle, but did not stop.Two bridge workers also passed him without stopping. The voices in Kevin’s head were now screaming at him in a cacophonic chorus: “You have to die! ”But something kept holding Kevin back. He thought,

“If someone just showed me that he or she cared,” he thought to himself, “I wouldn’t jump.”

And then an attractive young woman appeared, and Kevin knew that his prayers had been answered.

“She cares,” Kevin said to himself. And he knew that he didn’t have to jump. Everything was okay.

Kevin looked intently at the woman as she approached. But the woman aloofly handed Kevin a camera and said, “Take my picture.” Kevin couldn’t believe it. So he stood there crying, took the picture, and was completely convinced that no one cared about him – no one cared whether he lived or died. He gave the camera back to the woman, took three running steps, and jumped. But the second that he jumped, he knew that he had made a grave mistake.

“Oh, my God,” he thought to himself. “I don't want to die. What did I just do?”

Suddenly Kevin realized something. What was it?

Clearly the police officer that passed him without stopping to ask about his tears was not awake to his suffering. The two construction workers who passed him by were also not awake to his suffering. And the woman who saw Kevin as an instrument of her own vanity was lost in her delusion of separateness.

Everyone in this sad story drank deeply from the cup of delusion. A fundamental ignorance that gives us permission to not see others as ourselves or ourselves as others. Lacking this understanding, we believe that we are not responsible for anyone but ourselves and our closet loved ones ... we don't have to care about others who we don't know. Their problems are not our problems. That was the case in this tragic episode and someone almost lost their life ... like so many others that have died.

There is a Zen story I once heard about and incident where a young monk approached his Master who was standing on a bridge overlooking a raging river. The monk asked his Master about the meaning of life. The Master promptly picked him up and threw him into the river. While fighting to get to the shore, the monk awakened to his true nature. 

What did he realize?

What is this life? What does it take to wake up to the fact that we lack nothing? What keeps us from seeing our true nature?

Will it have to come down to one final regret before we finally see that our life, this life, is the Way?