Sometimes I think of my yoga practice as one big long preparation for dying. A way to soften the blows. A way to make peace with the inevitable fact. That one day I will die. And everyone I know and love will also die. We will die at the point when we have acquired most experience and skills. We don't know when. Or even how. We just know that it is bound to happen.
And we spend a lot of time and effort trying not to die. We wear seat belts when while in cars. We wear helmets when we cycle. We wear sun screen to avoid skin cancer which can lead to death. We quit smoking. We steer clear of dark alleyways. Poisonous snakes and spiders.
And dying people we hide away. Perhaps because we don't want to be reminded of our own mortality?
I am afraid of death. I don't want to die. Not now and not later. But it's pointless to resist. Because it will happen. As surely as the sun rises and sets. Everything has an end and a beginning. Every breath. Every love story. Every book, film and workday.
Change is the only constant. Life is the in-between bits. And perhaps thinking a lot about death doesn't have to be morbid, if it makes us more in touch with how precious and precarious life is? If acknowledging death enables us to see the big picture. And how insignificant and petty most of our concerns are. Our tiny little struggles. Here's an embarrassing confession: I sometimes spend hours researching a new exfoliation product (to make me look like I'm further away from death than I probably am). I read beauty blogs. I compare prices. I put the product in the virtual shopping cart, and am almost about to enter my credit card details when I change my mind and continue to search, open more pages, visit more web shops. Or, perhaps I decide to go to an actual physical store here in Berlin instead, to talk to an actual person, who I hope will be able to give me some valid advice on which product would be suitable for my skin type. And also give me a truthful answer to whether any animals were harmed or not, in the making of it. Ridiculous! I'm embarrassed to admit this.
Other times I may I spend hours searching for the right image for a blog post I am writing. Fiddling with various filters and experimenting with different ways of cropping the image. If this is how I choose to spend my 'in-between bits' I better enjoy it.
I have also wasted lots of time being pissed off or disappointed at someone. Someone who will also die someday. And most of the things that disappointed or pissed me off in the first place, were probably really silly or insignificant in the big scheme of things. And then holding on to hurt and anger caused me to suffer instead of enjoying or being at peace.
One of the first sanskrit chants I ever learned goes like this: asato mā sadgamayatamasomā jyotir gamayamrityormāamritam gamaya Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ. Which translates to: Lead us from unreal to real; From darkness, to the light. From death, to immortality. Om peace, peace, peace.
Immortality! Hell yeah! Where do I sign up?
The thing is, it's probably not the kind of immortality I first conjured up. I'm not gonna keep living in this body for billions of years. But the energy that everyone and everything will go on. Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
One day this body of mine will feed the trees.