Life is About Participating

Can we give ourselves permission to live fully, to love deeply and know that this will all lead to strong emotion, attachment and general growth in life?

Life is About Participating

I feel like I’ve been talking a lot about death… A lot of people have died this year, young old and in between…. Its a guaranteed fact of life that we will die but a lot of folks have been departing in the past year. I’ve been reading books like “Proof of Heaven” and am just about to embark on Dalai Lama’s “Mind of Clear Light” and Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal”. I think the latter two books will prove different, but I find some of the books on death, although reassuring us that we go to energy and our loved ones go to a better place, negate the fact that we miss them. I am so fortunate that none of the deaths have been my immediate loved ones. For that I am so grateful. But I have watched spouses and adult children losing their people and the sorrow is profound. We are a big ball of energy housed in a bundle of matter — skin and bones. Yes energy is boundless and many feel, like I do, that when we die we simply transcend the vehicle of skin and bones and are able to be limitless in our presence. Being a water baby, I think of it always as returning to the ocean. Of remembering. I feel them around frequently, those that have passed, and they want us to know that they are fine and that we are to love. But what about the skin and the bones? When they dissolve are we not allowed to mark their absence? The lack of someone’s palm on the small of the back? The small gestures of caretaking that, only those that know us well, know are needed…

I love the Buddhist turn of phrases “it is” or “there is”. Instead of “I am suffering” one might say “there is suffering”. Instead of “I am so upset about the crisis in Syria”, one might say “it is truly challenging to see what is happening in Syria”. Its like in a yoga pose when you are really at your edge, hating downward dog or a prolonged lunge “I’m going to break! Why is she being so mean to me?” Every muscle in your body and brain clenches and makes it all even harder. And then a ray of light comes in and you choose to get curious. “This is a hard pose and a challenging moment. Is there a way for me to relax into this and even come down if I want to?” Can you feel the restriction in the first approach and the possibility in the second?

I often feel like self-help movements shame natural emotions — anger is bad, your ego is bad. Anger is a useful fuel. Your ego is an essential part of forming who you are so that you can evolve and contribute to the world. I have a shadow of fear that this new ‘death is good’ movement might be teetering on shaming the sadness. I hope I am wrong about that. I see in the grieving this apology for being sad and I will say to them, “your sadness is a testament to your love for that person”. You miss their skin and their bones, their eyes and ears, their material presence and that is okay. It is sad that you lost your person. They have left a hole. Robin Williams in The Fisher King said about losing his wife to a mass shooter “I just miss her, is that okay now?”

I believe strongly in swearing. I believe strongly in venting. I believe strongly that we need to do this in an honest and non-harmful way in much the same way that we need to blow our noses, have bowel movements and cry. Handstand gives the opportunity to yell as you kick up. Use it! Savasana gives you a chance to cry if you need to, use it. Can we give ourselves permission to live fully, to love deeply and know that this will all lead to strong emotion, attachment and general growth in life? Life is about participating. It is full. It is rich. It is sad. It is infuriating. It is.

Allie Chisholm-Smith

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Ahimsa Yoga