“Though death is the most powerful and ultimate experience in one’s life, our culture goes to great pains to deny its presence. In a certain sense, the whole world of media, image, and advertising are trying to cultivate a cult of immortality; consequently, the rhythm of death in life is rarely acknowledged.” ~ John O’Donohue
Each breath draws us closer to death.
It is inevitable. Feel into this, maybe, if you’re up for it.
Take a mindful breath and be with this for a moment.
What kind of sensations do you feel inside of your body? What kind of thoughts come up?
A small exercise I feel inspired to share and hopefully bring some attention to the subtle or not so subtle messages you are receiving. It could stir a ray of emotions, perhaps a faraway dread that peers through the leaves of a chilly, fall day. Too much to think about, even though the body somehow speaks faster than reason can muster a word. And for others, death may have knocked on a family or friend’s door recently, and it is devastating and painful. For some, maybe relief rises.
In the fall of 2019, my aunty died from cancer. She was someone with whom I felt a soul connection with and the event of her death initiated me into gaining more understanding and respect for this difficult aspect of life. I was lucky enough to be involved in holding and aiding to her body as she was washed and changed into her dress. This short, but extra time I had with her felt sacred and important.
Recently, I became curious about the work of a death midwife; someone who is there for another who is dying and/or to guide a family toward a home funeral. They hold space to support the family in whatever way that is needed from creating an environment that is soothing and relaxing for the one dying to aftercare like cleaning and anointing the body with oils, adorning the body with flowers, and taking a more active approach in encouraging the family to create ceremony around their beloved’s life.
This was something I never really heard about as a service in our modern culture until only a couple of years ago.
Upon gathering more understanding on the reverence of tending to our loved ones, it opened a concealed door within my own fears of death. Conjuring conversation with other tender-hearted beings open to the work of death midwifery dropped the eeriness and morbidity associated with dying and brought forth a new way of perceiving and honoring its purpose.
I wonder, how does the fear of death show up in our lives when we separate ourselves from the death process?
The fear of this invisible nature can stop us from fully accessing the potent medicine received from becoming acquainted with the inevitable meeting of our end. How does the anxiety of loss keep us from fully experiencing our relationships and recognizing our personal well-being?
We can choose to serve love. Loving ourselves by meeting our mortality with a gentle greeting of its presence on the daily. We can use the power of that magnificent energy fueling the fear and redirect its source into creating and sustaining a relationship to that mystery that is impregnated into our everyday.
Simple conversations on how death permeates our lives can widen the lens of how we can approach learning more about our relationship to it. From the minuscule decision-making we need to do on the daily, a metaphorical scythe say, to the chattering insecurities that stop us from fully diving into an intimacy with life, to our own personal experiences with the direct exposure of a physical death of someone we may have known. From sharing our own experiences through journaling, through the arts, through dialogue, we can carve a path of exploring and understanding more of our invisible nature and our humanness.
Our courage to not only remember this natural breaking-down cycle but participate in its sacred dance, can help us gain perspective and maybe even time to take a moment and contemplate all our relations.
Time to remember what’s important, even if it’s as simple as calling that one friend we’ve been thinking about. Time to remember how to take care of our bodies and minds when we’ve spiraled into a stagnant habit or into thoughts that don’t nourish us, that got us trapped in a loop. Time to take that walk with the dog and be with the elements. It is such an unpredictable time lot.
Feel impermanence as grounding as a giant redwood tree. Sit back to its thick trunk and let it speak. A reminder to acknowledge the ebbs and flows, cycles and tides.
My curiosity of this elusive darkness unveils that which is always present. May we remember to breathe and sense ourselves where we are, right here, right now.
I leave you off with an excerpt from a book that wakes me up from my soul slumbers, offering wisdom as fresh as soaking in cold, river waters on a spring morning.
“Archetypally, the Life/Death/Life nature is a basic component of the instinctive nature…
Much of our knowledge of the Life/Death/Life nature is contaminated by our fear of death. Therefore our abilities to move with the cycles of this nature are quite frail. These forces do not ‘do something’ to us. They are not thieves who rob us of the things we cherish. This nature is not a hit-and-run driver who smashes what we value.
No, no, the Life/Death/Life forces a part of our own nature, part of an inner authority that knows the steps, knows the dance of Life and Death. It is composed of the aspects of ourselves who know when something can, should, and must be born and when it must die. It is a deep teacher if we can only learn its tempo. Rosario Castellanos, the Mexican mystic and ecstatic poet, writes about surrender to the forces that govern life and death:
. . . dadme la muerte que me falta . . .
. . . give me the death I need . . .”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes