The idea of impermanence usually creeps up during my birth week. It always has. The thought of my own physical existence and eventual non-existence for some reason becomes a prevalent topic, which I normally choose to dwell on. This is usually followed by a state of sadness. It’s not because I’m getting older that gets to me (I think?), but the thought process that seems to occur until an unsettling debate takes place in my own mind. I usually get super emo days before the actual day, then I work on “shaking it off”, have a few cocktails about it, have a huge birthday bash and push it under the rug. However, this year I feel better equipped to observe the mind and sit with these emotions. That month I spent in Nepal truly equipped me to learn how to deal with emotions of this sort that surface: negative and positive, pleasant and unpleasant. This year I’m choosing not to shake it off.
Last night, as I was leaving my yoga class I learned that a teacher from when I was in middle school had passed away. Throughout our adult years, I communicated via social media with her and shared travel stories and advice. We were both educators so I reached out to her many times to ask for advice. When I left education and started to blog, she was convinced and joked that I brought a photographer along with me everywhere I went. During our brief conversations throughout the years she showed so much support for my decision to leave the field and work on what I was passionate about. She was one of those individuals who made her happy presence felt during these far and between online convos. I also have multiple memories of long hikes she would take us on. She was a lover of nature and life. She and two other teachers instilled that within my friends and me during my adolescent years for sure. Our hikes were filled with jokes and laughter. This morning, on my way to teach my yoga class, the news finally hit me and in an effort to not walk into my class with red eyes I tried to avoid the cry. But the physical response to sadness was stronger than anything my mind or I could control.
Today, I went into class with a strong message about impermanence and dedication to this beautiful individual who is no longer with us. With each movement and breath my students took, she remained in my mind and by the end of our practice I sealed in a dedication so that she may rest in pure peace and bliss. She has touched many hearts with her smile and kindness, many which she will never know.
As the news of her death came through my iMessage last night, I had planned on visiting my good friend who had recently given birth to a beautiful girl. Conflicting emotions began to collide and not knowing how to deal with the news, I resorted to my first reaction upon hearing news of that caliber: denial. As I got home from yoga class I realized I just needed the quiet. I needed to just sit quietly, undisturbed.
Death shakes us to our core and it serves as a reminder of our transience and fragility as human beings. Death is unexpected and due to it’s taboo nature, the process is not talked about as much as it should. As I approach the day when I celebrate my own birth thirty three years ago, I place higher value on my existence and the idea of death. Every in-breath that I am taking today I recognize the fortune and gift present in that air. As we expanded our diaphragm and took a breath in during yoga class, I reminded my students that we are so fortunate to be able to respire. As we exhaled and moved our bodies, I recognized that that makes us even more fortunate compared to those who are just able to breathe and have no mobility. After a sweaty and challenging sequence, in our upward salute as we brought our palms to touch, I remembered and reminded them that it is a “beautiful life and a beautiful day to be alive” as the song “Beautiful Life” by Lost Frequencies was playing in the background. We finally sealed that sequence by bringing our palms to our heart center. My eyes were less red and a slight smile surfaced from what was an emotively sad face earlier that morning. I closed my eyes and remembered the smile of my friend who is no longer with us and imagined the smile of my beautiful friend as she met her newly born girl.
Even if it’s only today or this particular moment that I remember to appreciate my expansive breath, my life and those who surround me, then I am a step closer to living with gratitude. Completing my 32nd cycle around the sun, I am thankful for all who have smiled to me, laughed with me and filled my heart with love. For my birthday, I wish that everyone finds happiness and that extra breath in and out is granted to all today. I wish that our losses are equally balanced with abundance. Today we may hear the news of life, but tomorrow of it’s contrary phenomenon, death. How we react and sit with these emotions will guide our own presence. Today, I cry and I smile. Today, I celebrate life and I celebrate death. Today, I celebrate all of you.
Because without you, there is no me.