After the Deathwalker training I feel even more at ease with my own mortality and death in general. The training was inspiring and makes me want to go in deeper; I will offer my time as a deathwalker.
I won’t know how I will react to someone close dying but what I do know is that there is a lot I can do to create a ceremony the way this person wants it to be. I am now preparing all my paperwork to make sure those I leave behind know what to do.
Naturally where you put your mind, energy goes and where there is energy, people connect.
Recently, in regard to the deathwalker training, I started thinking and talking more about death. Fear of dying or clinging to life is one of the kleshas/affliction yoga considers overcoming. So, it is a fear present in most of us, whatever we believe, whatever religion we follow or theory we trust. We keep death quiet until it knocks on our door or jumps into our face and even then do we often try to push it away, brush it off, shove it under the carpet or neatly place it in one of the drawers where we put all the things in our life we don’t know how to handle or what to do with them. I still see one of my teachers and friends talk about the drawers we create for this purpose and how she imagines they are the vertebras of our spine, that pain in the back is related to those drawers being stuck because they are so full of all the stuff we carry, the stuff we can’t let go of.
When being diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time, my immediate reaction was fear! Fear of the unknown and yes, fear of dying. The mind creating all the scenarios of: if I die, what will happen to my partner, and even more so to my son. I started noticing a fear created in others by telling them that I had cancer. In hindsight I can see they were confronted with their own mortality: if this happens to her, it can happen to me too. A lot of women, me included at the time, get easily upset about questions like: but you are going to be ok? Sentences like: You look so good, so it can’t be that bad. You can fight this! Think positive! My neighbour had cancer, she died. And even years later some still say things like these.
I now know none of them mean to harm, they don’t know what to say, they are afraid of dying (too). Yet it would be better if we all dealt with death, made death a part of life rather than something dark, shine the light on death.
A student approached me today and told me her partner died a few months ago while they were hiking together. She watched him die suddenly. She is grieving her loss and rarely dares to talk about it as people don’t want to talk about death. Her experience with people’s reactions and words is similar. Someone said to her: Hope you are at peace now. It hurt her. She thought, how can I? Yet, the person who said it thought of her, contacted her, meant well. This person too didn’t know, couldn’t even imagine how she felt and just wanted it all to be good, to go away.
When my friend’s son had a deadly accident, I was shocked, felt her pain. When she rang me, she couldn’t talk, just cried and sobbed. I on the other end of the line said, Hi, I know what happened, no need to say anything, I’m here. Then we were both holding the phone for a while, just being there together. Same when after 2 weeks I saw her and her family. We didn’t talk much and when they were crying I either left them to themselves or was just simply there. She offered me a similar act of friendship when I was facing cancer.
We can’t help when someone faces death, we all must do that our own way. We can find answers in our faith or books or wiser people yet in the end we want to be able to invite death to the table, as Zenith’s said in her course.
You, just as you are, and your life here, right now, are all there is and all you need to know. You don’t have to do anything special. Mostly, you have to be open to meeting face to face, and even dancing with, the truth that pertains to your life right now. You have to find a way to collect your fractured pieces, examine them, and then accept them as part of who you are. Spiritual practice is about transformation, but it’s also, and more importantly, about working with what is.
- Angel Kyodo Williams –
A quote form the book 'Meditations from the mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison'.
I love this book and often use it as a theme for the week in my classes. The quote above sat really well with me and in the book is followed by personal experience from the author. This part is sometimes not relevant to me at all and I might either not share it at all or have something more personal to share. Last week it was so personal that I didn't share it in class as it might not be for everyone to hear. The quote however is very relevant and resonates with my truth.
During my years of teaching I got breast cancer. I struggled with it for a long time and even more with the side effects of treatment. Yoga on the mat wasn’t an option for a while. Yoga Nidra was my go to, to stay sane and yet I struggled keeping my focus. I returned to the mat with pain and weakness in the upper body. I fought to regain my strength and mobility. Sometimes it hurt or I was simply unable to do poses and I had to retreat into childs pose. Over time though I began to respect that healing needs time and that I was very grateful to be alive. Eventually I started to befriend my new body, and even to see it as something to admire. I began to focus on what I could do. As this attitude developed, the need to do certain poses, to fight my reality, lessened and gradually disappeared. My strength is back and I am even stronger than before and I gained a lot more knowledge in the other limbs of yoga. I can’t remember when that happened, because when it did, I no longer cared.