Sunday, May 10, 2009

91/129 - Fear of Death

Saturday 9:30 am with Amy

No, fear of death has nothing to do with Saturday's class, or at least I don't think it did.  On the contrary, after a few harder classes in a row, Saturday morning was a sheer delight.  I paid extra attention to staying lighthearted, and more importantly, I really concentrated on my breathing.  Usually, I use hard breathing as a warning signal, following my rule that if I need to breathe through the mouth, then I need to sit out.  But, I realized that beyond that, I really don't pay much attention to breathing, especially in the more challenging poses.  So I took a cue from my blogging friend "Hannahjustbreathe" and I used "just breathe" as a kind of mantra when I found myself losing focus.  It worked wonders.  Not only did it facilitate the harder poses, but it actually made it easier for me to find my "smiling, happy face." 

I'm grateful to both Hannah (for the blog name that sticks with me), and to Gates (for the always timely reminder that the world is a reflection of our hearts.)

I don't remember much in particular about the class.  I got nice compliments in Standing Head to Knee, and then Standing Bow, and then in Locust.  I went up really high in Locust, perhaps my best ever, and  was tempted to ask Amy how high after class.  But it slipped my mind.  

The most memorable moment, however, came somewhere in the floor series.  I got distracted by some thought during a savasana, and when we were coming out of it, I had absolutely no idea where we were in the series.  It struck me that the reason I didn't know where we were is because I had simply been following the dialogue without thinking about anything at all (at least until that distraction), and that meant I wasn't keeping track of the class like I usually do.   
The fifth, and last, affliction is the fear of death.  The yoga sutras say the fear of death arises from our experience of death in past lives.  I've got two main problems with this.  First off, I have lots of problems with the idea of reincarnation.   Today, there are more people living than all of the people who have ever died.  That means that there are many new souls, and as human population explodes, so must the number of new people who never had a previous incarnation.  There's no religion involved in that, its just purely mathematical.  

Diminishing populations present a different problem for reincarnation, because it means that the waiting period between incarnations has to grow longer and longer.  Basically, reincarnation almost requires a belief in a relatively stable overall population.  (The same goes for almost any recycling program, whether its bottles or souls.)

But even if I could buy into the idea of reincarnation, I don't see why that would lead to fear of death.  On the contrary, I would tend to think that the idea that I'm coming back would take some of the sting out of dying.  As Gates notes, in the west we tend to think of life as a one-shot deal.  For us, the fear of death comes, I think, from its finality.  For this, the idea of afterlife should remove the fear of death.

I think its worth noting that, for most people, neither reincarnation nor the afterlife removes the fear of death.  Ultimately, I don't have much to say about this.  I've never understood why either the afterlife or reincarnation actually solves any problem.  Instead, it seems to me that they postpone or prolong them.

I freely admit to having a fear of death, but not really of my own death.  Instead, I tend to fear the death of one's that I love.  Of course, I've been fortunate enough for it never to be an issue, so I don't know that I would remain as sanguine it did become one.


Bosco said...

I gained some insight into death when I worked as a hospice volunteer about ten years ago, for about a year. To be regularly with someone who expects to die soon radically alters your perceptions about your own life. The experience for me promoted a new kind of gratitude for the wonderful blessing of just being alive. In the book Tuesdays with Morrie, the author keeps a journal of his visits with an old friend who is slowly dying. It is a great book. One of his conclusions is that in order to really get life, you have to come to grips with death. My hospice experience really bore this out. The process of death can be scary but also, if one is prepared to surrender to the process, it can be peaceful and beautiful. Like it or not, we are all headed there.

hannahjustbreathe said...

"Just breathe" has long been my mantra. Hence, the blog name. And those two little words really do save me sometimes in class, when I can feel myself losing control and my thoughts going haywire. In the end, if nothing else, we have breath. Best to use it as efficiently and effectively as possible, right?

Glad you found the mantra of use, too!! :)