Exactly eight years ago I attended a yoga retreat that changed my life. Well, I guess a more accurate way of saying it was that it helped me to wake up to the aliveness of my life and re-inspired me to fully participate in it, rather than feeling like a spectator on the bleachers just watching it pass by. The central theme of the retreat I attended with Rod Stryker, one of my most beloved teachers and founder of Para Yoga, was Desire – but death, namely our own deaths, played a central role. We were asked to answer important questions like, “How would we be remembered if we passed on TODAY? Had we lived our life to the fullest? How did we do in our relationships? Did we come to know, realize and fulfill our potential?”
Eight years ago, and the crossroads I was at in my life, I felt these were difficult questions to face. I was drinking too much. I had recently had my heart completely shattered by a man I thought I was going to marry. My heart was not fully invested in my job. Feeling unhappy, being scared of the future and holding onto some major regret and shame from my past was daily baggage that I carried with me. No matter how much I tried, or how many bottles of wine I drank, I could not seem to rise above and touch into something more, until I went to this workshop… and died. I was 27 years old. The work we did at this retreat shifted my perspective so radically (I met Carl two weeks after I got home). I certainly did not want to die as a single unhappy wino (among other things, but I’ll spare you the details).
Fast forward eight years and my dearest friend, Angel Grant is in town visiting and asked if she could host a Death Meditation at Carl and I’s home (you need a pillow and a blanket, hence the group of death meditators in the picture above that look like they are going to a slumber party). She has been traveling around the country leading this meditation in collaboration with Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, and incredible project created by her partner Michael Hebb (Carl and I also hosted a dinner earlier this year – check it all out here.). She is a vessel for love, laughter and no-nonsense-give-it-to-you-straight-beacuse-she-is-eating-off-the-same-spoon wisdom. We were (and always are) thrilled to support her work and even more excited to participate! We had a babysitter for #sirellisroy!
I went into the mediation without any expectations. The rain and rolling thunder outside created the perfect backdrop to… die. And that is what we did. I died and through the process of Angel leading us towards death, I was given, yet again, another opportunity to examine my life, today. What would I do differently if given another chance? What would me my last words and to whom would I speak them? What poison in my heart (retreat, fear, shame) would I want to release?
I was not expecting the experience to take me back so quickly and so powerfully to the first time I “died” and came back, but it did. And, yet again, I am at a powerful crossroads in my life. Ellis is about to turn one. I’ll be sort of re-emerging back into the communities that I have been on hiatus from. I’ve been spending a great deal of time in reflection of what I want out of this next chapter. And, if I am being really honest with myself, I’ve been afraid. I shared the other day my fear of disappointing others and I’ll share here now, that I also am afraid of disappointing myself. I know what my weaknesses are. I know what lessons keep showing up. I know when I consciously choose look the other way rather than sit with feels uncomfortable within. I think we all know.
Death and dying will shake you into remembering what is important. Sayings like “live each day like it were your last” are NOT cliche. None of us really know what is on the other side of the door.
If you are so inclined to this type of introspection in your life, you will understand when I say that it is hard to sum up this work, because it is ongoing. I will share, though, the very last thing I wrote in my journal from the mediation. As Angel was bringing us all back towards the light, gasping for each new breath, she asked us to write down what matters most of all. These two words will be my new mantra for this next chapter.
Love Myself. #365things