“You’re a Ghost Driving a Meat Coated Skeleton Made From Stardust.”

Via Erica Leibrandt
on Oct 29, 2013
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girl skeleton halloween makeup

I recently spotted on Facebook, this anonymous post: “You’re a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be afraid of?”

Just in time for Halloween, comes this awesomely spooky, and possibly unintentional, meditation on the concept of impermanence.

I love the imagery, but what I love even more is the meaning behind it.

Some time ago, I was reading a book on Buddhist teachings, which included detailed instructions on how and why to meditate on your own corpse. The idea was to fully accept the reality of your own death and to get comfortable with it, knowing that this body is merely a disposable vehicle for your soul, which can never die.

My step son had taken his life shortly before I read this book, and I’m sure that’s one reason it resonated so.

For several weeks, I began to do as the Buddhist monk suggested. I meditated daily on the decay of my earthly body. I also became a connoisseur of skull malas, and collected them compulsively. I draped them over the Buddha statue in my little home yoga studio, stacked them on my wrists, and tucked them in my pockets.

I found it oddly comforting to accept the fact of my own death, in the wake of my son’s.

Once someone close to you dies, a child in particular, it forces you to ask some pretty big questions. What was the passage through death like? Where are they now? Will we ever meet again? What happens when I die?

At first these questions came in agonizing spikes of pain, wracking my anguished, grieving mind. But when enough time passed (so much time), I was able to turn them over without dissolving into tears and actually figure out what I believe.

I won’t say know, because I’m not sure I know anything, but believe with a reasonable amount of confidence. And I believe what the Buddhists do, and what yogis do too.

Nothing lasts forever except the soul.

We are all “ghosts” or spirits driving “meat coated skeletons made from stardust,” and we don’t have anything to be afraid of. Our soul takes residence, for a brief and sacred time, in our fragile human body. It does this to learn, to grow, and will—like a hermit crab—discard old shells as they become too limiting and move on to new ones, to new lives that allow further growth.

This continues on until we become wise enough not to need our corporeal lives any longer. At that point, all the skulls and all the bodies that we had fall away into meaningless matter and what remains is what was always there: our immutable self.

Halloween is a traditional time to contemplate death, as the season changes from green to brown, and then to white. I haven’t meditated on my own meat coated skeleton in many years, but I think I’m going to make it my new Halloween tradition.

There is nothing morbid about death, for there is no real death. There are merely changing forms of energy, each one to be held onto lightly while it lasts, and released lovingly when it passes. Knowing that, understanding our limitlessness, goes a long way toward keeping fear at bay.


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Ed:  Cat Beekmans

{Photo: Pixoto.}


About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.


15 Responses to ““You’re a Ghost Driving a Meat Coated Skeleton Made From Stardust.””

  1. Gaia says:

    Dear Erica

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I was wondering what the name of the book you mentioned was?


  2. Erica says:

    Gaia, Thank you! For the life of me I can't remember! I think I must have lent it to someone because I can't find it anywhere.

  3. Ed! says:

    Wonderful article, thank you. I especially like the fb quote you've built the article around!

    Still, strictly speaking, no tradition of Buddhism posits an eternal soul.

  4. Stacey says:

    Great post! Two things: 1. It reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote I love: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." And 2. I'm sure you've already thought of this, but if you aren't working on memoir-in-essays manuscript for a book, you should be. Have you read Kyran Pittman's Planting Dandelions? She tells her story through various essays, and it is a wonderful way to share a life, very relatable. She's hilarious and thoughtful. I think you'd like it. -s

  5. Erica says:

    Right Ed, I know…I was taking some liberties there! Thanks for reading <3

  6. Erica says:

    Stacey, thank you! I am thinking of doing that and I would love to read Planting Dandelions! I've never heard of it and appreciate the suggestion!

  7. Anna says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful post. We become so attached to this physical life and body that it seems our lives are short. Yes perhaps this chapter here on earth is short, but our souls will live on. Its comforting to know this, I am always filled with joy when I get to remember this fact. So thank you for the reminder, and thank you for sharing.

  8. Guest says:

    Appreciate the post, but must say I can't agree with your statement that "Buddhists.. [believe that] nothing lasts forever but the soul." I'm pretty sure Buddhists believe that "the soul" is a construct, just another place for ego to hide out, another way to "cheat death."

    Also, how does this "immutable self" manage to "learn and grow"? Immutable means changeless. As in eternally, completely changeless, incapable of any kind of transformation at all. If you're going to use terms like "immutable self" then you need to use them in a logically consistent manner, especially if you contextualize them with a statement about "what Buddhists believe."

    In the meantime, maybe you can stick to talking about yoga and spare us the "Buddhist" teachings, which you're not really qualified to give.

  9. Christina says:

    I had shivers throughout the reading of this entire post. Your writing is heartwarming and elegant, and I appreciate how honestly you write about your own tragic experience. I'm very sorry for your loss but I'm also very grateful for your sharing your experience through eloquence, love, patience, and understanding. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  10. Andrew says:

    What are your credentials as a chef? Do you own a restaurant? Have you worked your way to the title? I only ask because this title gets thrown around way to much now?

  11. Terry says:

    You may want to research your quotes more Stacey. It would seem yours is often mistakenly linked to C.S. Lewis when it had in fact been known to be in common usage decades before Lewis was around. A great quote though none the less.

  12. cusinedy says:

    Beautiful. Would like to know the name if this book.

  13. Jack Solomon says:

    I love hearing people express their absolute certainty that their eternal soul is going to somehow continue to exist after their body is dead. How in God's/Buddha's/Allah's/Wotan's/Thor's/Poseiden's/Baal's name do you know that? Every religion is exactly the same in this regard. Death is scary, so you choose to change completely what the definition of death is into something that doesn't scare you so much. If you really weren't afraid of death, you'd admit what it is. It's death. You die. Your body dies, including your brain. Your brain is the source of your consciousness. There is absolutely no scientific reason to believe any hint of consciousness whatsoever exists outside of the brain. When worms eat your brain, I'm sorry, but your consciousness is just as much worm food as the rest of you. Too bad. Believing anything else is pure fantasy and cowardice. We will never see our loved ones again, but that's okay, because you won't be around to miss them. Nothing to be afraid of except… nothing.

  14. Dineen says:

    Your kind. That's what you have to be afraid of – the other ghosts driving meat coated skeletons.

  15. gemmasez says:

    Really loved this, something I needed today 🙂