“I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending that haunts our sleep so much as the fear… that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.” —Rabbi Harold Kushner
In this past month, two things became clear: any commitment to writing about transformation calls for addressing the greatest transformation any of us will make at least once.
The second thing is that we live in a culture that celebrates eternal youth, never-ending life, and an insatiable thirst for immortality. Conversely, we avoid that greatest of transformations, known as Death, as a natural and inevitable rite of passage. Death happens daily, yet most of us are largely removed from it, safely positioned on the passive side of our computer and television screens or the printed page. Thus, when faced with it or its pending probability directly, we are woefully under-equipped to negotiate it.
Here a sampling of reflections, learnings & resources for the journey all of us will eventually take:
Two deaths in particular have impacted me greatly this month. One was that of my naturopath, Dr. Cecilia Hart. The other, was of course, Michael Jackson.
Both were unexpected, felt too sudden, too soon and riddled with questions of “how can this be?” They were both young. Both Virgoes. Both committed to Heal the World…and both so clearly in need of their own healing. One has become intimate and full of personal responsibility in a way that i would not have expected. The other has been far away and collectively held in a way that I would have hoped for.
In losing Michael Jackson, who without a doubt embodied the most complex relationship we, the people have with celebrity and celebrity has with itself, my soul brother Greg Tate captures it best: “What Black American culture—musical and otherwise—lacks for now isn’t talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral…”
a moving and prescient poem by Alice Walker written in 1991…
from Natural Star – for Michael Jackson
I am in mourning
For your face
The one I used to love
I am in mourning…
In losing Cecilia, who helped guide my health back into balance after discovering dis-ease, I’ve lost, for now, my health insurance: insurance against a system more concerned with medicating then healing even as it denies access to the basic right of health to millions. She belonged to the growing legions of naturopathic doctors, alternative healers, complementary health practitioners, chiropractors and more that stand up to legitimize healing practices that affirm wholeness and well-being, rather than dividing our wholebodies into separate problematic parts to be conquered one office visit and co-pay at a time.
After she died, the mystery of her notable slowness was unraveled. Unbeknownst to her clients that read untold pages of books waiting for her, Cecilia literally prayed over each herb, pill and powder to activate the healing energy of that vehicle. She called forth the power of those potions to be in right relationship with the body they would be in. She helped myself and many others reclaim our health and restore confidence in our innate ability to heal ourselves through better relationships with our body-minds. A lifelong teaching every one of us can practice today.
WRITE IT DOWN
Both Michael and Cecilia’s Deaths were also painful reminders that we live in an increasingly litigious society wherein the dispensation of our property, our children, even our very bodies is governed not by obvious relationships and moral right but by strangers behind desks and in robes wielding a legally ordered bullet list that divvies out dominion in a way that may defy the truth of our life choices of family, partnership and love, so:
- Live the life you want; but write down the Death you choose.
- And because Death waits for no one…write it down now. (really, right now)
- Though you can’t take it with you, you do leave it behind for others to deal with (or fight over). Write it down.
- Your last breath may speak your final desire and still your wishes may be dishonored, overridden or overruled. Write it down early, say it plainly and change it as often as needed.
CONNECTION & COMMUNITY
What matters most is what I’ve learned about the difference between connection and community and how desperately important knowing that difference is for our not only our lives to be good ones, but more importantly for our Deaths.
In an ever-connected, internet-worked world, our Facebook can be thick with Friends, we can be LinkedIn to a web of Connections, our Twitterverse can grow exponentially with little effort. With one simple login, we can create our own private Big Bang. We can scroll a ticker for updates on the status of friends and family, gaining tiny glimpses into the lives of the vast network of people we know intimately, loosely or not at all. Who needs to shout out when you can just tweet? In 120 characters or less, we can be teleported into a virtual visit into someone else’s now.
But when Death comes to Friend you, as it will, you can’t ignore it. Where will your vast but virtual network be then? Will they be there to sing songs, share stories and send your ashes back to ashes, and dust back to dust? Will they memorialize Yes, connections can be made quick, Friends, Followers and Fans, but relationships are still slow…and the best ones are grown over time
a reflection on why being in relationship matters to social change…
in relationship with others by Adrienne Maree Brown
“the most important personal and political skill to develop is how to be in relationship to others…the practice of being in relationship with others is what we are missing. individualism – personal individualism and national or patriotic individualism – has created a loneliness amongst humans which is not survivable.”
- Mere connection and true community are not the same; without the latter, we can be “connected” to hundreds of folks and still isolate ourselves literally to our deaths.
- The quality of our deaths is a direct reflection of the quality of relationships we cultivate in life.
- Relationships require reciprocity: Give AND Receive. Don’t just touch people…be willing to be touched–and moved–deeply.
- No matter how lofty, your leadership, status, role or position won’t separate you from Death, so don’t let them separate you from a real Life: one that is in true relationship with others.
- It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes one to rest a soul.
MEDITATE ON THE WAY
In many traditions, words for healing and words for Death are the same. Wherever our journey of life and Death may takes us, the path should be paved with encouragement, equanimity and ease:
powerfully soothing healing and “death-conquering” mantra sung by Hein Braat and often mistaken for HH XIV Dalai Lama by way of urban legend
the maha mrityunjaya mantra
excerpt from a reading meditation i offer for the sick, dying and dead on the in-between state leading towards Death…
Great Liberation Through Hearing While In Transition
modified from Tibetan Book of the Dead for Reading Aloud by Jean-Claude Van Italie and Tibetan Book of the Dead by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
TO FRIENDS OF THE DYING
who have come to this place,
Sisters and brothers, friends,
This person is dying.
She has not chosen to do so.
She is suffering greatly.
She has no home, no friends.
Falling as from a cliff,
She is entering a strange forest
Driven by the winds, swept by the ocean,
She feels no solid ground.
She is embarking on a great battle.
Moved from state to state,
She is alone and helpless.
Embrace her with your love.
THE MOMENT OF DEATH
Now is the moment of death.
The time has come for you to start out.
You are going home.
Oh, Nobly Bord,
Now is the moment.
Before you is mind, open and wide as space,
Simple, without center or circumference.
Death has happened.
It happens to everyone.
Perhaps the greatest opportunity you will ever have in life is to choose how you meet your Death. But without a doubt Death itself is the greatest transformation you’ll ever make.
May you go well.
Rest in Peace, Michael.
Rest In Peace, Cecilia.
May you each be liberated.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free.
copyright ©MMXI. angel Kyodo williams
changeangel: all things change. (sm)
angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary and founder of Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost, repast & repeat with copyright and contact information intact.