Experiencing acute loss can bring the simple things in life to the forefront. What you may have thought as trivial, like a hot shower or a good pair of shoes, can become your solace. When death moves you from complacency, from ambition, from expectations, from entitlement, the things you take for granted may become your entry to gratitude and presence.
Months of languishing in bed and monotonously going through my days, arriving to the comfort of disassociation, a bag of chips and a half-empty ashtray was the slow crawl of my grief. Grief did not wash over me in a wave but interrupted me in the everyday of my life.
I used to get up without care and wash my hair every morning before skipping out to catch the train. But what was easy became hard and, miraculously, what was hard before, like slowing down, became possible. I started to shed the skin of expectation, of arrogance and of individuality and became a blank slate. With no ground of a functioning identity, no goals and no expectations I knew what I needed was to return to what is simple.
Now the train could pass and I could watch everyone climb in without being in the rush with them. Grief brought me back to life by waking me up one cell at a time. Sometimes in this new season of motherhood I look back to realize how transformative and expansive loss has been and I’m deeply humbled and grateful for the lessons to have come when they did.
Death is an exam we will all face. Maybe the thought makes your tummy upset. Maybe it makes your nervous system move into fight, flight, or freeze. Maybe it messes with your immune system. It is foreboding and challenging to live with the truth of our annihilation unless we change the way we understand death and its purpose in our life.
In a modern yoga class the most difficult posture comes right at the end: savasana or corpse pose. We lie down on our mats with the intention of letting go of everything. We are practicing for death.
Yet if I said that in a class most people would resist it by distraction or avoidance.
“My death? No, that’s impossible. I am not going to die.”
The impermanence of human life is paradoxically its most glorious and terrifying feature. Every breath we take is different, everyday we live is different and we are always on the cusp of a life-altering event like the loss of our loved one, the terrible health diagnosis or the divorce. These major life events shake us up at the core because they bring to forefront what we most actively avoid: that everything must end.
Often our spiritual and body practice becomes another device by which we aim to control our fear of dying. I am guilty of this, trying to bypass the challenging internal experiences without really addressing the conditioning that brings them up. After years of failing to become some perfect new age idea of a spiritual person I realize that grief taught me self-compassion.
What started as a revolution of simplicity deepened into a revolution of kindness. Today as my fears hold me back from being my truest and most authentic self I hear a new voice on the conference call. She says, “its ok, this is hard.” There is no expectation of perfection, no need to transcend, no desire for an answer or desperate need for solution in this voice. When that voice doesn’t help me pause, I reach out in prayer to God and ask for help to see things as they are.
Find the kindness and simplicity that works for you while accepting deeply and lovingly the mess of our inner lives. For a moment consider not fixing everything that is wrong or labeling each flaw as a problem but instead let go into your deepest fear. When you touch that place it may expose your deepest longings as well.