January 12, 2017

How to Overcome our Strange Relationship to Loss & Death.



My meditation altar caught fire recently.

The house filled with smoke as flames crept up the wall, burning away my cherished little sanctuary. I had only moments to witness framed pictures of my beloved gurus melt to black dust before my lover drenched the smoldering mess with water.

As mindful as I am with my candles, I had been careless that night. Although most of my sacred items were replaceable, the mini wreckage brought up many feelings of impermanence. Before I allowed anguish and regret to sink in, I analyzed the event, its timing, how and why  it happened and what it could teach me.

An hour earlier, I had gazed upon a picture of Kali, Goddess of time, death and destruction. It triggered thoughts of life and perceived loss. I saw everything as temporary, whether I liked it or not.

I contemplated deeper.

It’s been nearly ten years since I lost my dad. It was a devastating blow to my usually joyous life. Once his soul passed on, I wasn’t sure how to continue living; or more specifically, how to live in peace with the undeniable fact that loved ones die.

I was a victim of profound emotional tragedy. It took years to realize my hurt was also temporary. My suffering mainly stemmed from no longer being able to hug him, talk to him and receive the support he had always blessed me with.

The loss pained my needy ego, no longer having someone I expected to always be there.
I grieved for what was no more — because I didn’t yet identify love as eternal.

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

~ Shakespeare 

The other day I caught myself saying, “Poor George Michael”  and then immediately rethought my words and my own view of death. Why “poor him?”  He is at peace, far beyond this frustrating and sometimes distressing dimension. I highly doubt that David Bowie, Prince and all the other beings who’ve expired are  suffering the way we do in response to their moving on.

I witnessed the heartbreak on social media regarding the loss of certain people this past year. Few of us have met these celebrities. Why do we act like it’s such a dreadful disturbance when they’re gone? Don’t talented artists and loved ones leave extraordinary gifts behind that we can enjoy at any time?

Westerners have an interesting relationship with the universal and inevitable event. We fear it, are saddened by it and even do our best to avoid it.

Other cultures do not view death the same way we do.

Death is believed to be a transition into the next world as the soul separates from the body; an astral journey beyond, a dance into another reincarnation and a continuance into different bodies. But certainly not the end of life.

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

~ Mark Twain

Profound meditations, ceremonial visions, and spiritual writings by yogic masters continue to teach me that I am much more than my physical form. When I dream, for example, I’m aware that my nighttime experiences aren’t with my body but a subtle version of myself.

The more I tap into this aspect, the less afraid I am of dying or losing people or things I’m attached to. I do not believe death is the end to all ends.

“I’m not afraid of death because I don’t believe in it.
It’s just getting out of one car, and into another.”

John Lennon

Wisdom of the spiritual path has allowed me to perceive mortality with more peaceful insight and much less agonizing.

It’s comforting to think the spirit remains, regardless of what happens to the body. Memories survive long after someone or something is gone. If it’s alive in the safe chambers of our hearts and minds, how can it ever really die?

Losing half of my treasured space to the fire, opened windows of clarity in my mind. Although it was only stuff, I noticed my response to minor loss was much different than it would have been years ago.

Could I consciously observe upsets differently in the moment, without waiting a long time to heal? Can love outweigh fear when it comes to death?

I intend to sincerely celebrate what is and what was without obsessing over the inconvenience of what could have been. I won’t sacrifice my inner peace, even when it feels destroyed by lost expectations.

The fire was a reminder to shift my perspective of disasters and observe what my mind wants to focus upon—the positive or the negative. There is always a choice.

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” ~J.K. Rowling

The destroyed relics and photos from my altar left a sweet energy although they are no longer tangible. Thoughts of my Dad ignite his presence whenever I long for it. And I can listen to George Michael any time I like.

“Spirit is free for all eternity. If its liberation seems to us a drama, it is because we place ourselves at a human point of view.” ~Yoga: Immortality and Freedom

Author: Tirzah Shiya

Image: flickr./kjcs

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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