Mon Jun 24 2013
“Don’t take life so seriously, no one gets out alive.” -Elbert Hubbard
Someday, I will take my last breath and “I” will be no longer. This thought, well, to be quite honest, it sometimes almost scares me....death. But the more I practice yoga and incorporate other shamanic meditation techniques, the more my mortality intrigues me and gives my life a whole new level of richness.
I find many of my yoga therapy clients come to me as they have come into a deepening of their own personal death awareness after the death of a loved one or a significant change in their own health. I find many that attend my Yoga for Grief workshops share about a deeper appreciation for life even in the face of losing someone or something so precious. Not everyone is ready to take on the exploration of how to live fully and if this topic causes you extreme emotional discomfort, please put this aside to read for another time.
I just returned from a trip back to my hometown in Pennsylvania. This was the first time in two years I was with my biological family. As each of us are mirrors for others, I saw how the older generation is slightly more grey in the temples, is moving a bit slower and smiling with a few more wrinkles around the eyes. The exact same thing can be said about my own reflection in the mirror. How do I make sense of the passing of time and embrace that each moment is abundantly full of grace and beauty? It isn’t always that easy to see the beauty and grace and indeed I am pretty certain that it won’t get easier as life continues to move faster and faster. Death asks us to come up with answers to the BIG questions such as…
-“What part of me dies and what part may live on?”
-“Does dying have to be exclusively a painful process?”
-“How can I prepare for death and yet not obsess about it?”
-“How can I enjoy what life has to offer if I realize nothing lasts forever?”
This quote strikes me as key in moving from an adversarial relationship with physical death to a more friendly one:
“Yoga doesn’t take time, it gives time.” -Ganga White
We need time – and we need a positive awareness of time.
If you are ready to take this existential exploration a step further, I offer you the following 5 effective tools. They work great on your own or with me or another healer. I’m always happy to help you find a good fit!
1) Tonglen meditation practice: This Buddhist breathing and mantra meditation helps bring balance between suffering and healing in one’s life.
2) Personal Death Awareness: Once we realize that not exploring our own mortality is a culturally acceptable form of procrastination, we may conclude that there is no need to wait until we have 6 months or less to live. This assessment can help put into perspective on how we wish to live more fully and die without regret. Check out this one version of the assessment by clicking here.
3) Proactively develop a yoga practice keeps you mindfully present. If you have done even one yoga practice, you have already practiced dying in the final pose. That’s why they call it the corpse pose! This restful state of lying on your yoga mat can free the ego and monkey mind from its musings, bringing a sense of liberation and calmness that is what many people who have experienced NDE (Near Death Experience) say dying is like. The more we practice, the more we can access this clear and egoless state of consciousness.
4) Daily Yoga Nidra practice: This practice can be as short as 10 minutes and some practice it for up to an hour. It is also a death ritual that helps us become aware of different levels of consciousness and bring us closer to an understanding of who we truly are. I help each client develop her/his own nidra practice and there are also free recordings on YouTube as well as free smartphone apps that are readily available.
5) Create a Bucket List and actively work on manifesting the items on it! If not now, when? If not you, who? Make one, check them off as you go along!
These tools can benefit anyone at any point in her/his life, as long as s/he is ready and willing to explore and expand one's consciousness. It's never too late OR too early to deepen one's appreciation of life!
Allow me to move one step closer to another variation of this perhaps controversial topic that I am sharing with you. Have you ever heard of a death doula?
According to wisegeek.com, a death doula is defined as follows:
“For the dying, a death doula offers comfort, support, and companionship. Many death doulas work in groups, so that someone will always be available to sit at the deathbed, and doulas may sit quietly with the dying, sing to them, talk with them, or offer other acts of companionship.”
In addition to longer term supportive work around Mindful Living & Conscious Dying, I also have a strong calling to do death doula work. In fact, my work as both a psychotherapist and a yoga therapist are quite complementary to this specialty. I have been volunteering with the Living/Dying Project for the past two years and will continue to offer my services on a sliding scale. If you or someone you know may benefit from death doula support, please know I am available for free consultation.
I chose Ram Dass’ quote “We are all walking each other home” as the theme to represent my private practice because I am deeply moved by the strength within each of us to face our fear of dying and bring into the light a genuine appreciation for the precious gift of life. All the wisdom you need is within you, and I bow to you as you journey along your path.
In peace and in breath,