i tell people to practice this every time i teach. i remind myself to be “still” at various points throughout my day.
as i sit here and try to conjure up the words to explain life over the past couple weeks, the only stillness that i can think of is corpse pose, shavasana, our final resting posture.
i think to some degree we all loathe and envy death. it is the most enigmatic and scary part of living, but we know, that when it does happen, there is nothing but stillness and relief from everything warring in our own heads.
why so morbid?
i feel like death has been entering slowly into my life in the past year. first, with a couple distant friends, dying suddenly; not people i talked to regularly, but people that where a part of my life at some point, enough to be a bit jolted by their passing. this year, it comes with a bit more fervor.
my grandmother, who is such an integral part of SO many peoples’ lives, has stage 3B, inoperable lung cancer. she is the healthiest person i know, and probably one of the last people we would expect to have a terminal illness. although she is still with us, her diagnosis has brought about a profound observation of death and life. i never really had to think about death before, and now i don’t know what else to think about.
last week, my uncle was tragically killed racing one of his many motorcycles. it was instant, a crash occurring at speeds exceeding 100 mph. his funeral was yesterday, and like my grandma’s diagnosis, it brought about a whole host of feelings that were not very expected. we visited his house today, where much of his stuff, including the bike he died on, still stand. it was eerie and surreal. so many random things, all relics of a life we knew so little about. we walked away with a pair of skis, an old banjo, sans one string, and a metal dora lunch box that he had for some reason. when we got in the car, jared showed me the ski pass that hanged from one of the skis. he figured no one would miss it, and we would have a memory of pancho’s smiling face, taken when he was doing one of the things he loved most.
when we got home today, our beta fish, dr. k, who was part of the centerpieces at our wedding 3+ years ago, was dead. we knew it was coming. we had been debating whether or not to euthanize him, but he made the choice for us. as i stared at his white face through the glass, chloe innocently asked me about the “shish”. how do you explain death to a 2 year old? i decided to be blunt and just say what it is: that the fish was dead, he stopped breathing and would never breathe again, like he went to sleep forever. with her precious naivety, she tapped the glass and said, “goke up!” those are her words for wake up. immediately i smiled and thought, ‘yes! wake up…all of you, wake up!’ but that’s not the way it works.
the thing is, my life is so good right now. i feel guilty being happy knowing that so many others are suffering. it has been a delicate balance for me to both grieve and celebrate. my grandma, or gamma, as we affectionately know her, told me this was to be a celebration. i wanted to believe that, but seeing pancho’s grief stricken friends made it hard for me, once again, to balance those opposites. but now, as i sit her and use my writing as a cathartic release, i see that these people, and even my sweet fish, have found stillness. it is corpse pose, that thing we try to master all the time, but really cannot until our physical life comes to an end. i do envy that. what grace and peace must abound when the chatter subsides.
in corpse pose, the hardest of postures to master, we learned that it is literally practicing for death. what if i did that everyday? what if the reality of other people dying was a way of teaching me to die everyday, dying to the stress, the jealousy, worry, envy, pride, anger and all things dealing with life, to pursue a greater understanding of the joyful stillness in death…while i am still alive?
i don’t know…just some thoughts…