Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sparkling Sunday

 Sparkling Sunday
 rising radiant I don my worship attire,
 lacing up these sacred earth stained shoes
 ready for the unknown and known
 the certainty of some breathtaking beauty to be found
 as I step into my once again brand new
 expression of devotion that is
 breath taking
 my worship is this simple offering
 a breath, a step on this sacred earth
 most fully in the direction of God
 the people driving to church might wonder
 why I do not pray, how did I get so lost?

 I do pray with every step
 I pray with all of me
 I pray with this precious God given
 body out here in the cathedral of the world
 trees, squirrels and all this creation
 bears witness to me, and I to it
 the very endless heavens above lit by the lantern
 of sun are my light and I know love in these steps

 I pray with every step not for speed or agility or even strength
 I pray for presence and clear seeing, to know this moment
 who I am, to feel God dancing in my movement
 my prayer is not one of words but feelings
 I feel my feet rise and fall kissing the earth
 I feel my breath and heart that are aligned to
 the rhythm of the universe itself
 I come and go dissolving and re-emerging
 filling and emptying until I feel the reality of both
 I am and I am not

 Sparkling Sunday
 I met you wide open and you
 met me with miracles
 on the blessed road I know
 all is one
 my sacred prayer
 is as I run            

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If I Should Die Before I Wake : Part 2 or Death Night in The Famous Mod 3

If Death is Kind

Perhaps if death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.

We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.

~Sara Teasdale 

I have had the privilege of participating in the famous Module Three, better known as mod 3 of the Kripalu 500 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, not once, but twice. Once I experienced it as a participant, and just recently as a program assistant. This ten day intensive is about transformational teaching. It is comprised of yoga practice and various provocative and compelling exercises that push the students to the outer limits of their comfort zones and into the stratosphere beyond. Guided by the master teachers Devarshi, Vidya, and most recently Jovinna, who each bring a unique form of charisma, brilliance, depth, intensity and even humor to material that can and does create conflict and triggers highly charged emotional responses, they artfully stir the cauldron. There is method to their madness.

Transformation in yoga is sacred work, it is the work. Shiva (the Hindu deity and archetype of transformation) dances in a ring of fire, fire that destroys what is no longer useful, burning away ignorance and illusion. This work takes ultimate courage, it is an invitation to upheaval, chaos, and destruction, that results in the reordering of the universe that lives within, in order to change the world without. Mod 3 is a call to leap into the fire, to trust these guides, to surrender, to burn, to awaken.

"The curriculum of this training is you. You are it, your life, your experiences." Devarshi informed the students in my most recent go around. Such a true statement, our lives are our curriculum, experience is showing up, moment to moment, to teach each of us just what we need to learn. It is clear then, that these teachers and students of yoga show up to this module aligned in unique ways to receive its offerings.

When the schedule is handed out on the second day of the program, some have heard and some haven't, of the shocking one word description filling the box for the activity on Sunday evening. When they look and see that word, the responses, though varied, are all intense. There it is, Sunday evening, one word; death. "We are going to do death?! What does that mean even?" I remember clearly, that being my response on my first go around several years ago as a participant.

"You are eternal, infinite, and whole, or not." Devarshi would continue to put this inquiry out through the whole ten days, but for me it resonated most strongly in the death experience. As a student in the process I felt an urgency in that statement, almost like I had been delivered an ultimatum. "Come on, decide! Are you or aren't you?", my inner voice questioned. Fear bubbled up, a fear that had been percolating in me for years. Fear of death had been haunting me, a specter, a monster. I could sense its shadowy fingers stalking me. I spent hours in therapy on this subject all the way up to module three. Yoga is transformational indeed.

In the death night experience I began to change, to heal. In terror, I stepped into the room, and into the fire. The room was set up with blankets, sheets and cushions, which we would find out were to serve as death beds. We began though, sitting close together at the front of the room, for a talk from Vidya and Devarshi on the matter at hand. Devarshi shared a story of witnessing the death of a friend as a little boy. His story shook me, his vulnerability touched me and his clear strength and faith affected me deeply, instantaneously. Moment to moment, life curriculum arriving, teaching, transforming me. I had brought my life curriculum to the training, but here was life too, in that very moment, like a lightening bolt, and never to be the same again.

The next part of the experience brought it home, to the body, the mind, heart and soul. Full on fire! We each took a spot at a blanket, and the meditation began. Devarshi lead us through a narrative in which we go to the doctor for tests, we are informed that a rare and aggressive disease has been discovered and we only have days to live. We were then instructed to begin some writing, first thinking of four things we love in life and writing them on index cards, and then to write our own epitaph. As we wrote the epitaph, staff would come and replace our "things we love in life" cards with cards that would say something like, "you can no longer walk" or "it is getting hard to breath". This might all seem hokey or ridiculous, but in the moment, in the atmosphere that had been created, I found it intense and profound.

Finally, we were told to end the journaling, that the time had come. We all laid down and Devarshi guided us through our last breaths, the moment of death, being covered with the sheet, moving into the light, being told it was not our time and returning us to life. Again, maybe this sounds silly in a way, or too contrived, but to meet death, to look at it, and shake off the denial of mortality and dive into the reality that this will be an experience we will all have someday is eye opening indeed.

Acknowledgment instead of denial of death is a call to wake the hell up and live!

Several years have passed between that first mod 3 as a student, and the second as staff,which was just a month ago. In those years I have had many more opportunities to learn and process around life and death and matters of faith and God. I have witnessed and received miracles. I have become more sensitive to, and aware of, divine guidance in my life. Miracles can be seen all the time in life, if you are looking in the right places, in the right light, with the right perspective.

Those experiences and revelations translated into an ability, in my second experience of death night as staff, to hold space and witness. I revisited my fear in the act of beholding it in others. I revisited that urgent question, "Infinite, eternal and whole, or not. Which is it?", as I held the energy of it for others. Most importantly, both times, we went in together, shed tears together, lived that moment of life curriculum together. That is a beautiful thing to be, to behold.

As I said, I am still afraid of death sometimes, but I choose to trust the miracles, the deep and unexplainable inner knowing, my soul intelligence.

 Infinite, eternal and whole.

Next stop on my dancing with death tour, I will do the practice in the book "A Year To Live" by Stephen Levine. I loved it so much for one night, why not a whole year?

Anyone want to join me? Awwww, come on, you know you do!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

If I Should Die Before I Wake: Part One

"Dream as if you'll live forever.  Live as if you'll die today."  ~James Dean

First off, my only qualification as an expert on death is that I am alive, which means someday I will die.
I hope it is not a shocking insight that this is true of you as well.

Death. We all have a very intimate relationship with that word, that force, that reality. This relationship, like any in our lives, is probably complex and messy, and this one is (almost always) riddled with fear, resistance, pain, and denial. Unlike many events, people or things we relate to in life, when it comes to death we don't get to choose. We can't break up with death, can't kick it to the curb.

I live a yogic life, and yoga has a lot to offer into this relationship with death. Fear of death, or clinging to life, is cited as one of the sources of suffering that yoga aims to liberate us from. As my teacher Devarshi says, "We are infinite, eternal and whole, or not." Here is where we can find some choice in this matter. We have choices in how we can relate to death and how we live our lives. We can choose to live in denial or sense the preciousness of this life and dive into this chance to explore, to seek, to inquire. The question at the core of the matter is "Who am I?" "Who am I really?". (I will come back around to that in part 2.)

Are you living? Are you REALLY living? Do you sense a soul connection and fulfillment in the activities, vocations, and relationships you invest in? Have you said, as of this moment, all you need to say to the people that matter? Is there peace in your heart or is there resentment, anger, fear? Healing and forgiveness should be a high calling, not an afterthought, especially for ourselves.

 If today was your last day, what would need to be done? Who would you say "I love you." to?

 If you only had a year to live what would you delay no longer? What dreams would you finally invest in or relationships would you mend?

If you should die before you wake, would you be at peace?

Living with an active inquiry into and relationship with death can bring more life to this life.

I completed an extreme trail marathon this summer. The race shirt said on the back, "I realize that my participation in this event may result in injury or even death." For whatever reason, that shirt really got me to thinking. Wow! What if I did not make it through this? This brought all the questions listed above to bear upon me over the next few weeks.

What I realized is that although I have fear of death, I am quite content with who I am and what I have done in my life. I have had a lot of deep struggle, to the point of despair in periods of my life, but luckily I have been gifted with the time to work through things, and I have had deep awakenings and amazing opportunities. I have said yes to what lights me up; my marriage, my children, yoga, dance, spiritual seeking and teaching.

I used to be unsure of my worthiness. I felt like I had to prove to myself, and the world, my right to be. That still comes up sometimes, but in the last few years I feel I have outgrown that pattern quite a bit. I look at where I am, who I am, and feel so grateful because I am a living miracle. I have achieved more than I ever imagined possible at my lowest of lows, at the age of twenty, when my life was on a crash course with complete devastation. I have come so very far, through years of healing my depression and anxiety, and engaging in intense soul searching.

After the race, I realized that I do have peace in my heart. I endeavor to live each day fully and also mindfully. I have big dreams, huge dreams, but I am also full right now, complete.

I choose infinite, eternal and whole.
More on that in part 2.