“For a star to be born: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.” – Zoe Skylar
Last week, buzzed on the sweet anticipation of Halloween, I wrote about the importance of play. Today, through my sugar hangover, my attention turns to decay, decomposition, and death. This is The Day Of The Dead, All Souls Day, or Dia De Los Muertos. Today we honor not only those who have passed on from this leftime, but also the natural passage at the end of all lives.
Here in Denver, the once juicy green leaves have dried, withered and fallen, now starting to emit the rotten Autumn scent, reminding me that everything must come to an end. Unpleasant though it may be, the fact is that death can come at any time, at any age; after a long or short illness, due to violent crime or an inexplicably tragic accident.
In my American culture, death feels like a taboo subject, like the “Great Unmentionable.” Therefore, on this day I am appreciative of the Latin American cultures who celebrate this Day of the Dead. By honoring death in this way, we are also encouraged to live each moment of life fully. We remember that each new day and each new breath is a miracle, and not to be taken for granted.
According to the ancient Latin American traditions, death is not the end but instead a phase of an infinite cycle. In the Indian philosophy, death is an opportunity to the ultimate transformation. The Buddha taught that death is a natural part of life, and that everything changes, nothing is permanent, and suffering is inevitable.
Our spiritual practice through meditation and yoga can ultimately prepare us for the impermanent nature of the world, and ultimately for our own death. Meditation allows us to create space to observe samsara (suffering) and be able to hold space for ourselves and others in times of loss, heartache and grief.
We end each physical yoga practice with Savasana, or corpse pose. during this sacred time we cut off our senses to the outside world. We deepen into the stillness of body and mind. Savasana allows us the opportunity to die, decompose, transform and then rise anew.
Completely free of form.
Breath breathes you.
Let go of needing to know.
Decomposition, allowing for new life.
Infinite possibilities are now open.
On this Day of The Dead, your suggested homework assignment is to go outside to lie on the cold earth. find a bed of decaying leaves or dried-up stalks. Allow your body to soften and become heavy and effortless. Imagine returning to where you came from.
When you eventually rise from this position, do so with intention and an awareness of the gift of being alive. Remember that each breath you take is an opportunity for gratitude and transformation.