Last week was tough.
We buried my cousin. He was much too young to leave his body and losing him has been a deeply painful experience...to see the suffering of his parents and daughters was incredibly difficult to bear.
Of all the lessons of our yoga and mindfulness practice, coming to terms with death and with our own mortality is the one I struggle with most.
But it’s perhaps the most valuable lesson of them all. And in many ways it’s the essence of the practice.
For if we’re not using our practice to confront the reality of existence then what are we doing?
And what reality of existence is greater than the certainty of death?
Cognitively I get it. What I perceive to be ‘me’ is merely a set of conditions - and like all conditions they are ever changing and impermanent...in time they will cease to exist in this form.
The life force that animates me will one day grow quiet, the essence of ‘me’ shifting to another state, leaving just this physical container behind.
The sooner we can REALLY turn towards this reality...and TRULY accept the felt essence of this truth rather pushing the discomfort away, the less resistance we’ll have to our final journey.
If only it were that simple.
The reality is that I do struggle to accept that one day the world will spin, the wind will ruffle the trees but I won’t be here to witness it.
It’s something I’ve sat with in my practice and from time to time I do feel somewhat more reconciled to this reality - but yesterday was a reminder that there’s still much work for me to do.
But this doesn’t have to end on a somber note.
For if we are able to start reconciling ourselves to the certainty of death, it throws the beauty of life into sharp relief...
A reminder to be grateful for what we have, to cherish the ones we love and to embrace life and the many wonderful experiences it has to offer.
I think back to an interview I listened to with the musician Wilko Johnson. He described how, after being diagnosed with what was thought to be incurable cancer, he walked out of hospital…and in that moment he’d never felt more alive.
His senses were acutely heightened and he was filled with a sense of genuine awe and wonder at the living universe around him.
Thankfully he went on to make a miraculous recovery and his perspective on life has forever been changed (for the better I think).
But we don’t need to wait for a tragic diagnosis.
As practitioners of yoga and mindfulness we’ve been gifted a wonderful opportunity to cultivate this same sense of awe, wonder and reverence for life NOW...even as we reconcile ourselves to the certainty of its final destination.
So my way of honouring my cousin’s memory will be to fully commit to appreciating and honouring the beauty of the life I have to live.
Are you with me?