We all go through it. Some too young to understand it or process it. Others, will go for decades without feeling that pain. At the end, we will all leave this body… what we (so called – yogis) refer to as “the temple”. We might think we are ready, we might think we “know” how we would handle it, but we will only know when someone we love is not here anymore.
This is the first time that I’m actually writing about death. It is the first time I’m putting something like this on the Internet. The main reason to step forward is because I want to read it in ten years and see how my perspective has changed. I have lost quite a few important pieces in different stages of my life and I have dealt with the grief in different ways. During teenage years I think that there is a lot of rage, anger, and disappointment, for example. It is very common to hear “this is really unfair”. In a way, it is. We see a lot of people doing terrible things in the world and they get to live till they are… 80? C’mon! And if you grew up atheist (like me) the “comfort” phrases that people shoot at you, will not make it any better… just think about this next time you are going to say something remotely religious to a teenager.
Less than a month ago, we lost one of the dearest members of my family. She was “The Boss”…. literally. I met her in 2003, when I was stuck in the US during the holidays and my mom bought me a ticket and said, “Just go to New Jersey, you have a lot of family there and you are going to have fun”. I sure did. I met incredible people, got to experience New York City for the first time, felt very welcomed by family that was not in my life for the previous twenty three years and no matter what others say, New Jersey is a peaceful and beautiful place.
Now, after fifteen years of knowing her, she is gone and we all mourn her in different ways. I remember feeling nauseous when I heard the news, felt physically ill and could not function for a whole day. I tried to step on to my mat and just cried and cried while I moved from asana to asana. I could hear her spontaneous laugh over and over in my head, the way she pronounced my name and how we made fun of other family members through a chat we created with other cousins (after a christmas trip, we all felt we needed a “support group” to talk about our parents. We kept it alive for many years later and it was a lot of fun).
The last decade has been very nourishing for me… yes, Yoga has helped A LOT, as you might have guessed. The idea of dimishing suffering from one’s life, to practice non attachment and to enjoy the NOW has made me see death in a different way. Well, don’t get me wrong, I still have fear… fear of just not waking up, of not seeing my friends and most loved ones again. But I guess that fear makes me enjoy them more, right now.
Not only do I have fear, but I still get frustrated, anxious and in a terrible mood when it is still April and we have had thirty days of rain in this town. But I feel different, because I don’t keep it inside. I say it out loud to a friend, to my mom or most likely, to my husband that then gets anxiety because he thinks I am terribly upset with the world :p. The difference? I am not upset for a week, is only for an hour or a few minutes. After that, peace comes back and I can act like a normal human being.
All of this nonsense merges in one point. I have learned through my own experience and leaving old beliefs behind, how to grieve. We NEED to let our minds be sad, to feel that pain in our hearts. We must allow ourselves to BE, to go inwards and learn from that experience. I feel in a lot of ways, we are trained to be sad for a couple of days and then “life most go on”… but, does it? Did we close that chapter? Or are we carrying all of that baggage with us (work, relationships, strangers on the street, our children)? I have found more peace when I just go beneath the earth for a few days and reflect on what has happened than when I have been pretending it is all ok… but hey, this is one human’s perspective.
Last week we watched “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” on HBO. Please, do yourself a favor, stop now, put a reminder in your calendar and watch it. He had many interesting quotes (a lot of them from Buddhism) but one of them is stuck in my mind.
“When you accept death – When you are totally ready to die – Then you will live”.
I keep going back to it and as simple as it seems, it is one person’s life that can go on and on working only on these three sentences. It is really hard, or I should say, we are not used to the idea to accept death as part of life. Someone dies and we think we could have spent more time with him/she, maybe I could have called more, why did I get so upset each time we had to spend time together? Could I have done something to prevent the illness? The list is very long. Stupidly long. What if we switch this pattern to, if we live the way we want every day, it is ok if that day comes. I have no regrets.
So, that last thought reminds me of one last quote from GS’s diaries:
“If you live another three weeks, be grateful.
If you live another three years, be grateful.”
As my cousin was coming to an end she said on FB to one of the people she loved the most, something like, if it wasn’t because of cancer, we would not have spent all of this time together. I can just hope that whoever read that post, can take something really powerful out of it, which is, we must not wait for something tragic to happen to enjoy life, travel, meet new people, create a business, tell your partner that you loved him/her pretty often. We do not need to be shaken to appreciate what we have. We have it, we just need to be determined. Determined that we are what we feed ourselves (holistically speaking – so it is not only food, but thoughts, company, jobs).
I am still working on it. It is not a universal formula. So I will keep reminding myself that determination is the key to everything, not only professional success. I am certain that fear will fade away as I get older, as I keep getting comfortable in my own skin, with my own thoughts and I keep being simply who I am.