Making a peaceful transition to the next life.

I was talking in class this past week about yoga and the journey of life...

I remember in my training with my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, during a discussion one day, we were talking about yoga not just helping us to find more peace and balance in the present but helping to make the transition easier at the end of this life.

Some of my teacher's are getting older now and they are moving into their old age stage of life and the end of this life is approaching.  My teacher, Mr. Ramaswami, wrote a book called 'The Three Stages of Yoga'.  In the book, he talks a lot about this third stage of yoga as a preparation for the end of this life.

I am amazed at how peaceful my teacher's are as they move into this later stage of their lives.  I am sure they are confronting resistance to getting older and fear of death, just like everyone else.  But they've practiced surrendering in yoga their whole lives. They've practiced going into the fire, experiencing the fear and resistance that comes up from the ego and the mind, and letting it go, letting go, and surrendering. 

This is what the end of our life requires.  Surrendering.  Letting go of the ego.  Samadhi, the practice of deep meditation, in yoga, is the deepest state of meditation, where the ego has dissolved, the subject and object of concentration have merged.  Maha Samadhi is often the term used to describe death, the final Samadhi.  Yoga is often associated with death.  What would it be like to experience death without dying?  What is left over after I let go of this body, this mind, these thoughts, this ego, these emotions?  Who is left over in the stillness when I die?

I remember reading an interview about former President Jimmy Carter when he had learned he had brain cancer.  He was so calm and so peaceful.  He talked about how grateful he was and how fortunate he had been throughout his life.  He talked about surrendering to whatever was meant to happen and how it was out of his control.  I remember thinking -- "Wow! This guy is a yogi!  He might not be practicing yoga the way I do but he's a yogi."

In yoga and meditation, we are constantly practicing letting go of the ego. The practice is really a surrender practice.  You need concentration to take you into the fire, of course, that's a given.  But once you are there, in the fire, experiencing the suffering, the practice is all about surrendering and letting go. 

I've watched people around me who are the same age as my teacher's, who are also approaching the final stages of their lives too.  It's very different to see them compared to my teacher's.  Some of them are not at peace at all.  I see so much attachment to the ego, so much resistance, and there's a lot of suffering. They are very angry. 

If you are attached to your ego throughout your whole life, and you never practice letting go, and surrendering?  At the end of your life, there will be a lot of suffering. 

Your yoga practice can help you find balance and peace right here and right now.  It can also help you have a more peaceful transition at the end of your life. 

One of my teacher's once pointed out to me that every yoga class is like a life...

We start out in class in stillness and when we move our movements are slow and easy.  We are like a baby.  Then, things start to move faster.  We do sun salutations and we begin to flow through the practice and there's not a lot of stillness but a lot of movement.  Here, we are like teenagers. Then we get into the fire of the practice.  Strong standing warmup poses, standing balance balance poses, arm balances and core exercises, poses we are holding for longer periods of time.  Then we move into our peak poses, inversions and bigger backbends.  This is like when we are in the middle of our lives, working hard, with lots of responsibilities and challenges. Then the practice starts to slow down.  We turn inward.  We sit down or lie down.  We hold the poses longer.  We start to turn inward.  We are in old age now, getting ready for our final rest.  And, finally, we are there, settling into the corpse pose, savasana, the final rest. We are back in stillness.  We are back where we started.  We've lived a life. 

And then we do it all over again and the cycle repeats with another day and another class. 

Practice living a life every day on your mat and taking a journey into stillness.  Let go of the ego. Let go of your resistance and fear.  Surrender.  Practice a peaceful transition from this life to the next.

Grateful for all of the incredible teacher's who I've been so blessed to learn from who are lighting the way and showing us how to move through this life with grace, both on and off the mat.  Thank you.  Namaste.