The last of the Kleshas is Abinivesha, the fear of loss, change and death. The fear of change and death is a suffering deep within our instinctual subconscious, Fear is hardwired for self-preservation, reacting to avoid changing circumstances, being out of control, loosing something we are attached to and staying in denial of our unavoidable end at all cost. This deep-seated involvement with duality is imbedded within all of us, whether you are wise or naive. Step up to the cliff edge and we all will react the same to a gust of wind as we flinch, run away and avoid falling to our death. It is natural to want to stay alive, it is a part of the autonomic nervous system to notify us of any change or of harm that might occur.
It is said that suffering arise when we live in ignorance of the only truth we know of, which is, to live is to die. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. This is the truth of impermanence. We will all be affected by it inevitably. So what is so bad with the concept of death, when it is a fact of life? Well…it’s the Ego that gets in our own way. Why would the ego want to be evicted from this home? Where it has a mind, opinions, beliefs, views, things to play with, a personality, family and friends, adoration and not to mention students and social media followers! As long as we are ignorant (Avidya) of the impermanence of things, there will be an ego (Asmita) which is fuelled by attachment (Raga) and aversion (Dvesa) this will perpetuate the fear of changing anything in our lives, loosing what we have and of dying.
Yoga asks of us to explore not just who we think we are but to experience what we are. Yoga suggests what we truly are is SAT CIT ANANDA, joyful existence of consciousness having a human experience that is you and the same consciousness is having the experience of me. Science proves we are a part of everything and everything is a part of us. It is just our egotism that keeps us separate and invested in the story of ME, MINE and I. ‘I think therefore I am’ ‘I feel therefore I am’ ‘I do therefore I am.’ Are you your thoughts? Feelings? Actions? Or are you consciousness witnessing of having them? Without your them, your memories, life experiences, who are you? Who are you when you are not trying to be somebody?
Yoga encourages you not to have blind faith, but experienced wisdom. That we awaken to what we truly are, what we have always been and will always be, that joyful existence of pure consciousness. We forget what we are and reduce ourselves to who we think we are. So contemplative practices that wake us up to experience not just what we are but to explore the inevitable transition into the next experience of what is after this. This is an interesting process to ponder. What is after death? Where do we go? What goes? Who knows?! I don’t know! No one really does. There are theories. The one thing that I have experienced as a death doula and witnessing death of a loved one is that death will be the most important thing you will do in life.
This is a delicate topic and the Yogic philosophy around the time of death may trigger people, especially for those who have faced the experience of illness and/or death either ourselves or a loved one. It is said that the state of mind at death determines the state of mind at re-birth as this tradition believes in reincarnation and what karma the soul chooses to work with next time. You might not align to this theory and this is what it is, a theory, but it will explain a bit more about why we are practicing Yoga.
It suggests that your soul called the Atman, lit up by Pure Consciousness, is having the experience of you. When you die, your soul disengages with your body at death, your subtle body disengages at re-birth and your soul carries all the deeper work you have done in each life time to refine it towards true liberation, Kaivalya which is to never be born again. At Death it is suggested we cultivate an attitude of acceptance, love, healing and forgiveness, rather than clinging, resisting and fighting death. Unfortunately, some will experience this suffering and it’s just too awful to bare.
This is one reason why we focus on the exhale pattern and the pause after exhale to practice with the dying process and death itself. We also do Savasana, corpse pose in our asana practice. This symbolising our life practicing skilfully navigating, refining techniques and finding our way to stillness where we have resolve, acceptance and serenity to then lie down and die. So Savasana asks us to pause and reflect and imagine the inevitable. We have no real control when it is our time to die and trust in the process of life, learn to let go and face our death with Grace.
Buddha was known to ask at death three questions:
- How well did you live?
- How well did you love?
- How well did you learn to let go?
By practicing Yoga we can calm the Kleshas and face the unavoidable loss, change and death experienced in our life. Valuing, honouring and celebrating a better lived life for ourselves. Is your practice drawing you closer to Grace or farther into Fear?
Just notice how you feel in your body contemplating about this. Notice the unique sensations, images, thoughts, emotions. Do you see that the Ego just wants to attach, contract and runaway. This is just the Kleshas.
And so we practice being human having a conscious experience, and practice being conscious having a human experience. Life is not happening to you, it is happening for you, to wake you up to the truth of all things. Focus on the breath as it will teach you how to lean into living and gracefully let go.