Yoga is like an anchor for me. My boat (my body) is in the present; sitting on top of the water, and is exposed to the elements of life. But my anchor reaches deep into the unknown, and yet it creates stability. The depth of the water symbolizes how far I am willing to explore my spirituality. Can I work with my fears? Can I let go? Can I travel with ease and follow my intuition? I pick up my anchor and release it into the depths of mystery many times during the journey of my life.
According to Merriam-Webster, an anchor is a reliable or principal support. Yoga is a support we can depend on in our life. We need that support because the mind is like the wind. In the Bhagavad Gita, it says, “The mind is impetuous and stubborn, strong and willful, as difficult to harness as the wind. But it can be trained by constant practice and by freedom from desire.”
In the vast sea of life, the wind will push my boat around with recklessness – if I allow it. But I can become steady with my anchor, and let my sails harness the wind to direct my boat according to my plan. I will learn to ride the waves and become my own captain.
When you truly feel equal love for all beings, when your heart has expanded so much that it embraces the whole of creation, you will certainly not feel like giving up this or that. You will simply drop off from secular life as a ripe fruit drops from the branch of a tree. You will feel that the whole world is your home. – Ramana Maharshi
Any time is a good time for meditation. – Buddhist Monk Bhante Sathi
I have been thinking a lot about the quality of life and death. My Buddhist teacher, Bhante Sathi, asked me one simple question that will not get out of my head. He asked me, “Are you satisfied with your life?” And I replied, “Yes.” When I look at my life, I am satisfied with everything that I did. I have a few things that I would do differently, but, all in all, I am satisfied.
An unlived life causes the fear of death. If you are happy with your life, then you can let go. But if you feel that you did not live your life, then fear can appear. Are YOU satisfied with your life?
Almost every day, I sit with the dying. I see my patients mortality and my mortality and the brief span of time that we call life. The Buddhists believe, just like in nature, there are two events: birth and death. I, too, believe that we are part of a cycle of birth and death (reincarnation). I do not fear death. However, I am curious.
Do you sleep at night? Sleep is the twin of death (Yalom, 2008). We experience a taste of death every night. Death is part of us, part of nature. And every morning is a symbol of rebirth. All things begin and end and then start again.
Most of my hospice patients decline until they are in a sleep-like coma. Also, they hold their breath. Some hospice practitioner’s call this, “Fish out of the water.” They retain their breath like a fish out of water, opening and closing its mouth. After they hold their breath, then they need to catch their breath. So it’s a cycle of retention (holding the breath) and fast breathing.
When I watch my patients breathe, I understand the importance of learning pranayama (regulation of the breath through specific techniques and exercises). Pranayama exercises help us to prepare for death. As a yoga practitioner, I understand the value of training the prana (breath/life-giving force). According to B. K. S. Iyengar (yoga master), it is best to practice pranayama with an experienced Guru or a skilled teacher.
Meditation also helps us prepare for death. Again, we watch the breath. In life, the breath is always with us.
When you are satisfied with your life, there is no fear of death. You lived your life to the fullest! No regrets. The essence of who you are stays with you. You go to sleep as you, and you wake up as you. It is through wisdom that we see the truth.
Yalom, I. D. (2008). Staring at the sun: Overcoming the dread of death. London, Great Britain: Piatkus.
God is the master of surprises. Even death is a surprise. – Sr. Lucy Bruskiewicz
A strong emotion is like a storm. If you look at a tree in a storm, the top of the tree seems fragile, like it might break at any moment. You are afraid the storm might uproot the tree. But if you turn your attention to the trunk of the tree, you realize that its roots are deeply anchored in the ground, and you see that the tree will be able to hold.
You too are a tree. During the storm of emotion, you should not stay at the level of the head or heart, which are like the top of the tree. You have to leave the heart, the eye of the storm, and come back to the trunk of the tree. Your trunk is one centimeter below your navel. Focus there, paying attention only to the movement of your abdomen, and continue to breathe. Then you will survive the storm of strong emotion.
You should not wait for emotion to appear before you begin practicing. Otherwise, you will be carried away by the storm. You should train now, while the emotion is not there. So sit or lay down and practice mindfulness of the breath, using the movement of your abdomen as the object of your attention. I am positive that if you do this exercise for twenty days, ten minutes per day, then you will know how to practice whenever a strong emotion comes up. After ten or twenty minutes, the emotion will go away, and you will be saved from the storm. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Check out my article, “Finding Balance while Grieving” in The Edge Magazine online: