Moving towards a death-positive culture to embrace the full cycle of life.
April 21, 2021
I am right now experiencing the most magical time of my life, nervously awaiting the birth of my beloved daughter. What a miracle happening in front of us every day, new life emerging from the darkness of a womb. I'm in utter devotion to this birth, and to this life to come, yet this miracle of birth and life also draws my attention to our relationship to death.
This cosmos is an experience of abysmal fragmentation and separation, and at the same time, of profound interconnectedness, interpenetration and non-duality. Yes, at the same time, not either-or. Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness is exactly form. Many can acknowledge either of these experiences a possibility of perceiving the cosmic journey at any given moment, but understanding that there is no difference between the two is what offers the seed of liberation.
Our perception of reality being either an experience of separation or oneness is the root of our current crisis, and what is keeping us from becoming a truly developmental species, mastering conscious evolution and living in synergy with earth. For centuries seekers of liberation have flocked to wisdom traditions and meditative practices seeing them as an opportunity to escape the confines of the human body. A way to "come home" to spirit, to oceanic consciousness, achieving a state that is devoid of suffering, having transcended the illusion of self. Yet failing to include it and thus walking a path that is profoundly disconnected from the human experience. In this paradigm, the body is seen as the gateway to experience contradiction, individuation, and duality, but only that.
The perspective that spirituality enables us to experience peace and oneness, while the body is the source of separation and suffering is just another attempt of the mind of discrimination to force the infinite into a world of either-or. This innocent misunderstanding has profound implications though, the most impactful being that it puts us into conflict with the cyclicality of the life principle that evolves consciousness in a perpetual movement through death, birth, and the temporary sustaining of life. These three fundamental qualities represent the full cycle of life, the possibility of vitality, the dance of syntropy and entropy, the breathing of the living cosmos, evolution and involution, the lovemaking of light and dark, the trinity of life. Our interpretation of the body as an expression of separation, and thus a vehicle of experiencing the finite, denies death as an elementary part of this cycle. Through this lens, death is an ending, a terrible truth, a fate to be resisted, a sentence to protest, the reason for a lifelong fight for survival. Or as Woody Allen put it: "I'm dying! This is unacceptable!"
This inability to embrace death as a fundamental part of experiencing existence is leaving us with an incomplete relationship to life. We only live partially, binding energy and attention in avoidance rather than surrendering to being ecstatically alive. Our whole technological progress is driven by this avoidance. Every industry in one way or another is invested in either distracting us from the reality of death or finding a way to "cure" us from it, as if it was God's big mistake, death as the ultimate disease to overcome. Our response to the viral pandemic is a beautiful mirror of how terrified we are of death, collectively again we chose not-living over dying. In the face of death we become constricted in our core, we suppress the force of life moving through us - in fear of losing our life. Another cosmic joke. Our culture worships the partial truths of our developmental journey, while ignoring the absolute truth they point towards.
To look at death as a beautiful expression of the regenerative cycle of life is an absurd claim to make in our culture, a sign of insanity, it means to step out of the mythos we exist in. This mythos keeps us in our collective trauma around death. Not wanting to feel the grief of loss and the fear of our own decay. A culture in freeze and collapse, wounded by centuries of war for survival and resources, intoxicated by the dream of individuality while devastated by its consequences. What we feel towards death though is not a response to what death is, but what we imagine it to be, driven by the belief that our body is a jail of separation, with death as the end of experience.
Fortunately, under the weight of the impending collapse of the society we know, we seem to start waking up to the possibility that the illusion of self is not transcended by bypassing the body, but through fully experiencing the body as a relational node in the profoundly interconnected cosmic web of being. Individual trauma is integrated by creating compassionate relationships among our inner parts and fragments, to experience a state of wholeness within ourselves again. Similarly, we integrate the collective trauma of separation through experiencing our bodies as relational entities, to experience wholeness as a planetary ecology. Finding connection through polarity is the embodiment of non-duality. The whole planet is a continuous process of vitality in relationship with itself, experiencing oneness through fragmentation. Emptiness through form.
"One of the gifts that trauma can offer to us when transformed is that we really learn how to hold polarities as a way of experiencing the nonduality of existence." - Peter Levine
The truth is, just as soul and spirit, our bodies are a fundamental expression of interconnection, interpenetration, and interdependency. Our bodies are the instrument to experience the utter integrity of all isness. For it is not our body, but our attention that is creating the illusion of self, identification, and individuality. Thus death is not the end of consciousness, it is a phenomenon of expansion, growth, and inclusion. It is a developmental stage-gate, marking the transition from the partial to the whole, from contradiction to integration, a new order of complexity, a more inclusive level of identification. A requirement for evolution and syntropy.
Where we see darkness and think of a grave, it is really the primordial mother sucking us into the dark cosmic womb for the next evolutionary cycle, the rebirth into a new sense of self, less fragmented and more whole. Death is the soil in which life sprouts, from which it breaks through into the daylight. All life emerges from darkness. Understanding and fully embracing this natural cycle is the big opportunity of our time. Changing our relationship to death will also transform our relationship to fear. Recognizing death as the moment of expansion reminds us of the potency of fear as a guide into the unknown, a call for surrender, not for resistance.
Imagine we would move into a paradigm that embraces birth, life, and death equally, a culture that focuses all its energy into the constant turning of the cycle of life, rather than trying to stop it. An inclusive and sustainable economy built on principles of regeneration, interdependency, and cyclicality. Experiencing the whole planetary ecology as one living organism, one body, one consciousness, devoted to its own evolution as a whole rather than the immortality of its parts. This possibility is here now. But it requires us to take a deep breath, slow down, and turn around to face the dark, with a smile on our face, recognizing death as nothing but more life.
Once again, Rumi said it best:
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as an animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man,
to soar with angels blessed,
but even from angelhood I must pass on:
All except God doth perish
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become what no mind ever conceived.
Let me not exist, for non-existence proclaims in organ tones:
To him we shall return.”
Lennart is a growth and leadership facilitator. He explores the edges of individual and collective development through the angles of consciousness, embodiment, and deep ecology using an integral framework of the whole, undivided cosmos.
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