I’ve just returned from my second week-long retreat on the subject of death. That may sound morbid; it was anything but. (I wrote about the first one in an earlier post, What is left when you let go?)
Once again, masterfully led by my spiritual teacher Kim Rosen, we examined the question “Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is most important now?” Throughout the week, Kim guided us to drop below the mind and into the realm of direct experience through processes melded with the transformation elements of poetry, music, dance, breathwork, silence and reflective writing. We considered not only the ‘Big Death’ that awaits each of us, but also the many small deaths that arise daily: physical, emotional, relational.
For me, the nugget that I came home with, and am turning over and over in heart and mind popped out of my pen during an automatic writing ‘blurt’: to live in truth with who I am. What does that mean? In a nutshell, to get real with myself: my hidden motives, my anxieties, my fears, my inflations and deflations. For example, one of the things I reluctantly admit about myself is an almost hard-wired need to seek and gain others’ approval. This pushes me to be nice and keenly helpful, to manipulate to look good, to avoid arguing, and to bite back saying what I really think. Am I willing to ‘die’ the small death of disappointing others? Of angering them? Of appearing stupid? Of being shunned and even shamed? Yes, intellectually, I know these fears are irrational; at the same time, they hold an astonishing and visceral power in day-to-day interactions. Am I willing to let those masks of niceness, over-eager help, and holding back, fall away and die into my fears?
And then to discover what remains? What is at the core of my being that now breathes more freely and fully?
What have I got to lose?
The Art of Fugue (VI)
Once again, the moment of impossible
transition, the bow, its silent voice
above the string. Let us say
the story goes like this. Let us say
you could start anywhere.
Let us say you took your splintered being
by the hand, and led it
to the centre of a room: starlight
through the floorboards of the soul.
The patterns of your life
repeat themselves until you listen.
Forgive this. Say now
what you have to say.
~ Jan Zwicky
P.S. If this kind of retreat appeals to you, Kim Rosen is offering a similar one in Ottawa from Sept. 23-27, 2019. A few seats remain. Register here: Death’s Door Registration or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.