Ultimate Stillness


Susan Taylor Suchy is an author, academic, and researcher. Her deep passion is to explore the spirit journeys people take and how they get there from here.

The poem presented here is from Susan's new novel Tree Life, which documents one such journey.


by Susan Taylor Suchy

When the third breath leaves the body,
something that sounds like outer space—
a woosh of other-worldly air or spirit—

After the third breath, fear passes,
awareness of ultimate stillness arrives.
Everything else carries on,
moving, alive, vibrating.

The sound of an engine is heard without irritation,
without judgement,
the chirrups of birds are welcome, are spring, even if it’s still

The hum and buzz of life calls,
saying “time to be born,”
but the time is not yet…

Under the soil,
listening to the world,
feeling the activity above--
The world this way is enough.

the movement comes,
without warning, and without surprise.
Upward is easy,
like rushing water, pushed forward without pressure,
to awake, to burst forth to life, calm, centered,

To the first breath


Exegesis: In Death There is Light

When I wrote the poem “Ultimate Stillness”, I was not aware of why I wrote certain lines. For example, I did not understand why I wrote that the third breath left the body. I was doing three deep breaths as part of the yoga practice that I was creating for myself. The number three has mystical significance, but beyond those two thoughts, I didn’t understand. 

Although none of us really are aware of the depth of knowledge we do have, what is exciting is the discovery when we read something else that affirms our own experience or gives clarity to our own insight. In this case, Sogyal Rinpoche, in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, offered me wisdom regarding the idea of the “third breath” leaving the body. He writes on the process of dying and explains that just prior to the point of the modern clinical time of death, at the point just prior to all vital signs stopping, just before our breathing stops, there is a place where we take “three long, final outbreaths. Then suddenly, our breathing ceases” (253).

This place I had created for myself in practice was very much a savasana (a corpse pose). I trust that the rest of the poem follows an inner awareness of the cyclical nature of existence, of the time before we are born to our first breath.

Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, London, Rider, 1992, p.253.