Wayne Allan Dirks
My father died 2 weeks ago.
He not only had his will, his wishes, and his belongings in order, he also had his heart and soul in order. He was ready to accept what life brought and to accept death when it came. He was ready to take his last breath with a prayer of gratitude on his lips.
One of my final memories was sitting on Dad’s hospital bed, holding his hand. He was in a lot of pain, yet his mind was incredibly sharp. I asked him what he wanted to happen in his pained, weakened state. He looked at me with the smile I had come to expect and said, “If I die, I get to be with Jesus, and if I live, I get to stay here with Nancy…either way I win.”
In the past two weeks, I have reflected not only on the example and inspiration of my father’s life and death, but on my own life and readiness to die. In the yoga understanding that guides so much of my journey, life is thought to be a preparation for death. The Sages teach that death is painful for those with regrets and attachments. Death is painful when our own greed and selfishness have us so entangled in this life that we cling helplessly to it. Death is painful when we have not learned to live well.
Whatever tradition we are part of, the teachings are in essence the same: learning to live well. Learning to accept and let go. Learning to trustfully surrender and to face our fears head on. Learning to forgive and have compassion for ourselves and others. As we nurture these qualities in our hearts and minds, we slowly become masters of our own life and therefore, our death. As we learn to live well, we learn to die well.
People offer us mirrors to reflect upon our own lives, eventual deaths, and the qualities we our choosing to nourish on a daily basis. Thank you Dad for the mirror you have reflected to me. In so many ways you showed me how to live well and how to die well.
I have noticed lately how often people use the word busy or talk about how much they have to do. Busy has almost replaced the word “fine”, when responding to the question, “How are you?” Even my 3-yr-old granddaughter felt compelled to tell me how busy she was, although I wonder if she knows what the word means.
It seems there are high expectations placed on us by both society and ourselves to meet a certain criteria of accomplishments daily. I am amazed how much of a failure I feel each day that I don’t post, or go on Facebook, or accomplish much of anything. I keep looking for something to do, even when my body objects.
This article written by Deborah Adele first appeared in Yoga Internatiional 7.10.18
After the 2015 publication of my article “Living in Brittle Bones: My Life as a Yoga Teacher With Osteoporosis,”I was greatly surprised by the response I received. It wasn’t just the number of comments or the enormous interest in the topic. What surprised me was some of the content in what has been an avalanche of emails, that even now continue to arrive in my inbox. The majority of these emails have been from yoga teachers or yoga studio owners who are dealing with the same thing—an osteoporosis diagnosis—and who, in some cases, were told by their diagnosing physicians to give up yoga completely. That surprised me.
I was recently playing with my 3-year-old granddaughter when she got overly excited and broke some rules. Her mother immediately put her in a 5-minute time out. Upon being released from her time out, she confidently ran back to play with me proclaiming, “Grandma, grandma, I want you to know I am changed; I am a completely different person now!”
Despite her confidence, I have no doubt that my granddaughter will spend many more 5-minute periods in time outs as she grows to adulthood. Each time will be an invitation for her to remember a different way to be as well as a time to reflect on who she wants to be.
In the beloved story of the Bhagavad-Gita, a corrupt and narcissistic king sits on the throne. He is selfish and greedy with little concern for the welfare of the people he rules. As a result, everything is out of balance and suffering prevails.
Enter Arjuna, our main character. Arjuna is a warrior, and it has fallen to him during these difficult times to lead a battle against the forces of self-interest in order to restore wellbeing to the whole kingdom.
A study was done at the University of Virginia showing that 67% of men and 25% of women would rather endure an electrical shock than to sit alone is silence. Startling, isn’t it?
The school shooting in Florida is now history, and the nation is buzzing with controversy. The students who survived the massacre are saying, “No more.” The NRA is waving its freedom flag. Our President is suggesting possibly arming the teachers to “solve” the “problem.”
I have been thinking lately about a quote by T. E. Lawrence, known to many as Lawrence of Arabia. It goes like this: “All men [sic] dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men [sic], for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
T. E. Lawrence is reminding us that not only does it matter how we choose to act moment to moment, it matters what we can and are willing to imagine with our choices. It matters what we can dream, what we can create in our imaginations. Can we, do we, engage in a rich imagination that can reach into the present and shape the life process?
It’s hard to miss. Another New Year has called us to social celebration and quiet reflection. We can feel the turning of time and with it the longing for meaningful change. We are in touch with hope, with possibility, and with failure. We are reminded of what might be different or at least a little better in our lives, in our world, in our character. And for most of us, this hope turns into resolutions.
There is much written about how to make resolutions, how to succeed at keeping resolutions, or how to not have any resolutions at all. We forget that there is no right way or even one way to enter the New Year. As much as we read the “how to’s” and the “what’s”, this is OUR life, and we are mortal.