November 15, 2021

The Art of Dying is the Art of Living.

It was just Veterans Day.

I cannot imagine the emotional burden Veterans carry after experiencing war.

I know the inner war of the mind well, but to live through an actual war and see your friends die, and then try to come back into “normal life”—that is beyond my comprehension.

I know about how to still the panicking, or agonizing, mind and bring it back to center, how to find inner peace. I want to share it.

Collectively, we’ve been through 18 months of loss. A third of the adult population is reportedly experiencing mild to severe signs of depression. We need to deal with our individual and collective loss to come back from this.

I use a process called Hakalau. My own life coach taught it to me about five years ago. I used it to process myself out of panic attacks. I was going through a divorce. It was terrifying to leave behind the life that was known to me.

I helped one of my clients through his panic attacks with this exercise. He would call me from a trip with his parents—his emotional wounds triggered—panting, amid another attack, and I walked him through this potent meditation. His heart rate slowed down, and he regained composure. It only took about 10 minutes. And he remembered who he was again.

My heart goes out to those who have served this country and who come back emotionally wounded, and who cannot “find back” to who they are, to what “normal” is.

I wonder if it feels anything like when my sister died at age 41. Breast cancer. After a six-year battle. She was fighting it, determined not to die. Up to the very end. “I’m not dying!” she insisted.

That day she passed, my life stopped. The life I had. And a new one began. I had to make a choice, either to go down the spiral of depression or to live for two.

This was the darkest pain I ever experienced. What had been flesh and blood—no more. The void of death engulfed me.

I staggered into the backyard under the pepper tree for air. I knew from giving birth naturally twice and from the emotional healing work I facilitate that you cannot resist pain and resolve it. You have to surrender to it. Breathe into it. Welcome it. Be with it. So I did. I breathed into the core of the pain of her death.

It was the blackest moment of my life. A deep pit. I didn’t resist. I let it be all it was, fell into it, welcomed it. I let it devour me, annihilate me. The art of dying. And then life returned. My cries, my sobs, my calling of my sister’s name, “Alexia, Alexia, Alexia!,” suddenly had laughter in it. How could it be?

Her voice, her presence still here. I felt her tenderness, as if her fingers were still touching me like when we did tickle backs. I heard her voice, the last words she had spoken to me three months before she died. “Don’t cry, I am here.” And I realized that the ones we have loved continue to live on in our awareness—present as soon as we surrender into the void of the loss.

Now, when the dark night of the soul overcomes me, I use the Hawaiian active meditation, Hakalau. Think of it as a peripheral vision exercise.

1. Lift your gaze to the height of your third eye.

2. Find a spot on the wall or on the horizon while focusing your awareness on the farthest periphery to your right and left.

3. So the right eye focuses on the farthest right spot on your periphery.

4. And your left eye focuses on your farthest left spot on your periphery.

5. And then just breathe. Your eyes are up and out.

In Hakalau, you see it is impossible to dwell on the negative. It will lift your spirits and give you a fighting chance to come back to your center when the night is darkest.


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