November 1, 2023

How to Embrace Death so we can Liberate our Lives.

“Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of offering a practice on the deeper purpose of savasana, or Corpse pose.

Although most yoga classes end with this deep relaxation, integration pose, it is rare that we get to consider the deeper meaning and value of the practice.

I would like to share a story from many years ago that happened over the course of a weekend of “Exploring our Death to Liberate our Lives.” It is an experience that stays with me because of one woman’s bravery to face what was really true for her.

Louise (not her real name) was about 75 at the time and had just lost her husband of almost 50 years. She was participating in the weekend because she did not know if she was willing or able to continue living without her life partner. The depth of her honest sharing touched us all.

Over the course of the weekend we looked at our lives asking ourselves big questions like:

Is today a good day to die? If not, why?
Have I forgiven myself and others for mistakes made?
What would I most want to hear to support me to die peacefully?

Throughout the weekend, tears are shed, both of grief and of relief. The relief of allowing ourselves the space to honestly see and feel what is true for us on the deepest levels.

On Saturday night we practice savasana, not only as the person letting go, but as a guardian, the one holding sacred space in support of the process. We are guided to let go on all levels of our being. We let go of physical tension, of our beliefs and concepts, and all that tethers us to this life. We surrender as best we can to the great mystery of life and death.

Each person has their own unique experience which is different each time this journey is undertaken. Experiences can range from a great power nap, to a journey into the spirit realm, to a glimpse of our eternal nature.

Louise was able to go deeply into her experience and felt a profound surrender.

Sunday morning is a time for integration and to celebrate our rebirth. As part of this celebration, we explore partner inversions, seeing ourselves and our lives from a new perspective.

As I demonstrated these postures, Louise expressed her fear saying there was no way she could do that. From many years of seeing people move way beyond what they believe possible, I knew better. I know that fear gets trapped in our bodies and nervous systems, and when we are supported to safely feel our fear and move through it to the other side, profound release can happen. All it takes on our part is a willingness to feel.

Louise was willing. Slowly, with lots of support, Louise went into the inversion and was able to “fly.” Coming out of the posture with tears streaming down her face, she exclaimed, “I want to live!” It was a joyous moment and there was a sense of liberation for all of us who witnessed her.

Years later, Louise set me an email, not sure if I would remember her. She told me how powerful the experience was for her and how she was so grateful to be alive.

This is the power of facing the things that we are most afraid to face. Death is something that touches us all and is perhaps the most transformative moment in our lives, both as witness and experiencer. But miracles can and do occur when we are willing to face death with an open heart.

There is an interesting phenomena that often occurs over the course of a weekend exploring death. By the time we come to the actual practice, there has already been so much release and letting go that a real and palpable joy can be felt in the space.

It is a joy that comes from seeing death in a different light, not as the end but as a transition, a time of change and transformation.

Freed from fear, we can more easily see that our nature is love—and that love is eternal.


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