Thursday, December 03, 2009

Death as Teacher

I've been waiting for the right moment when I could sit and meditate and write lucidly about this but that moment might never come so here I am taking a break at work to scribble something.

Ever since my experience with the death of Kalpna (Fulbright), my recovery and healing from the trauma of this event has been accompanied by an awareness of my own fear of dying. So I've been wanting to teach myself how to unlearn this fear by asking questions: what is the source of this fear? and what can I learn anew to undo it? This is the way I've dealt with all kinds of fears ever since I embarked on decolonizing myself. It seems that I can never get to the bottom of the master narratives that have colonized me. But this is where I need to go: get to the bottom. What could be more "bottom" than death itself?

Henezi McNoise, the Lakota who visited my class said that there is no Lakota word for death.We come home to the stars - that's what they say.

To embody what we believe in our intellect -- this is my difficulty. Part of the exercise is to identify all the master narratives of the culture about death and then deconstruct them. When my brother in law dying, I sang a Benediction that I still remember. The Lord Bless You and Keep You, the Lord lift his countenance upon you....i am weeping and singing from the groin but the lyrics are from the faith I've left behind. Have I really left it behind?

I am thankful for the little qi gong and yoga breathing that I practice because to clear the mind through breathing has been most beneficial for me. While my bro-in-law was dying, I was able to sing to him, hold his hand, talk to him, say goodbye to him. But at night it took me the longest time to fall asleep because I would be assaulted by fearful thoughts: what if I don't wake up tomorrow? what if i suffer a stroke here? ...and then I would remember to breathe, to send loving thoughts to my organs/body and then extending outward to the cosmos. After awhile my body would relax and sleep will come.

I try to practice journeying to my sacred garden and the tree of life in its midst. One day I was walking in downtown Santa Rosa and for the first time saw this ancient monkey pod tree that has always been there (of course) but I've not noticed prior. This time, I stopped and touched and lingered around it, feeling out its energy and the life within her. Ever since then I would invoke this image in my visualization and find that I am comforted.

But I cannot even begin to think of the massacre in Mindanao. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around acts of war. It is and it isn't comprehensible. And then I think of the people I know whose life work is with war refugees or mediation between warring factions in Mindanao -- how do they hold themselves together to be able to do this work? What do they hold on to? I think I know the answer to this and that is also where I need to go.

I need to go to the deep well of mystery. I need to learn to embrace the incomprehensible. I need to see beyond my physical body. I need to experience my other bodies -- the astral, the energetic, the spiritual. I think this is babaylan work...but I am not feeling sure-footed and perhaps that is alright.

Do I make sense?

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