In memoriam has come upon our beloved community. In the agora of our shared connections, where sometimes the quest eclipses the journey, our community always comes back to a beautifully honoring center to deal with death. So many have crossed over, from Morning Glory Zell to Margot Adler just this week. In days and weeks to come, she too will be memorialized and eulogized, and many stories will be told. What I wonder in times like this, however, is how we grow from the experience of death?
Beloved poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.”
Death kindly seems to be stopping everywhere I look these days, in the faces of those whom I adore and care for, and in the hearts and minds of many within the world: death of loved ones, death of relationships, and even the death of nations. Perhaps Earth herself? Whether by choice or happenstance, death is stopping to remind us of Her part in the ebb and flow. Do you resist her invitation? How does the person practicing alone grow from the experience of death?
Inviting death does not have to be bad; in fact it needn’t even be sad. Death is the glorious celebration that is everything Immanent, the ‘thing’ that is Goddess within you, around you, the absolute and the empty. And for those who might think, how glib of me to write that, as I write this both of my grandparents are facing their mortality: gravely ill, losing their faculties, and I rejoice in their dance with Goddess as the transcendent vessel of Shakti. One of the great things about Ecstatic Monism is that in seeing All Goddess as Every Goddess, She reveals herself as Kali. Kali is death, and great transformation. She is the invitation to the breath that keeps things moving.
My yoga teacher Sue Elkind once said, “When we are born, our first inhale is on Shakti’s exhale. When we die, our last breath becomes Shakti’s inhale.”
When I frame death as greater manifestation of breath I think, Yes! This idea that our very existence is part of the dynamic dance we do with Shakti might be the most profound thing she ever teaches me. This is because it puts breath back into presence, into Goddess, into us. The physical act of breathing is Kali. The expansion and collapse is Kali, and it is all resonating in an alignment that supports the breath: everything returning to the great exhale.
I am not afraid of this exhale, I am inspired by it. It is dynamic, pulsating, it is what Tantrikas call “spanda” or the subtle creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form. The rise and fall of the breath is steadfast and constant as life and death itself. When we come into the presence of Goddess, I choose first to come into breath, and in times of death I breathe into the great exhale of many whom have crossed over. We can’t stop death, we can only keep breathing in this perfect moment. I choose to invite and welcome the rhythmic breath and visualize that my breath is meeting the person passed, prana to prana, steading and easing the suffering. It is a simple mediation, but I find it most profound.
Margot Adler is dead. The Earth is dying. Death is kindly stopping… and I choose to embrace Her breath and invite you to breathe into the great exhale of Margot Adler’s last breath, into the whole space of Earth’s transformation and into the deeper dance of Shakti. Together, let us breathe into that deep spaciousness that only death can provide. Somewhere in the world, many are coming into their great exhale. The circle continues; let us engage the breath. It is the universal truth that connects us. Let us breathe into this spaciousness unwavering.