living

Suicides and near-deaths: a tether snaps even when heaven is now

gillian-anderson-x-files
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in The X-Files Season Two episode “One Breath”

This week’s celebrity suicides are a reminder of how fragile our ties are to the body, and a moment to shift into a practice of love.

RIP Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, my old friend Jackie, my friend’s son, millions of others and a dying part of myself that let go so I could hold on …

This week’s celebrity suicides are a reminder of how fragile our ties are to the mortal flesh — this crazy scary and yet wonderful flash of being human on a (seemingly) unknown journey. It makes no sense to be in consciousness, and yet there we are. “Here I AM.” And truly, that is the only “job” we have on this earth — to simply be.

I learn of these suicides after spending nearly eight hours in tantric practice earlier this week, deepening my connection to self and others, through contact exercises that reframe the narrative of being embodied.

I said hello and acknowledged a part of me that suffered in the throes of addiction once, a part of my experience that is now faded into a blurry memory. It’s not that I wanted to die; I simply no longer wanted to live that way, and so I shifted, and you see me where I am today. That shift, however, was nothing short of a miracle. Not everyone makes it.

I know that my father was suffering in his embodiment. While he was bedridden in hospice, he yelled out that he wanted to die. I tried to touch his heart so that he wouldn’t fear transition. But how could I have possibly helped him hold space with his pain? His spirit was trapped. The nursing home, and its eldercare bureaucracy, didn’t understand how there was no well-being in that state, even though he was clean swaddled and fed.

Ultimately, it broke my heart into a million pieces, little shards I still find laid out before me, but there was nothing I could do to intervene in my dad’s own relationship to source, God — or whatever you want to call our emanation. Only he could make peace with his connection to the light that brought him forth and took him away.

(My mother, by the way, had the mixed blessing of Alzheimer’s, the watery realm of forgetting. She slipped quietly away.)

I’m not sure, and will never know, as no one can know, what that last breath feels like for each of us. All we can do is trust.

I mention my father’s experience because it bears witness to how desperately close we can come to that choice of loosening the tether, and how important it is, from the moment we leave the womb, to learn how to hold space in the pain body instead of running away from the edge we can no longer bear. I wished that Jackie, a young friend who died of apparent suicide by hanging a few years ago, had trusted. Her tether was tight and it snapped.

Creatives like Kate and Anthony, whose ability to dazzle entertained us and added beauty to our lives, need grounding. I’m one of them. And while I live with a light heart, I take these spiritual tantric practices seriously. I don’t do yoga just to get a cute butt. Living mindfully helps me live fully. I no longer fear dying anymore than I worry about having been born. But I had to nearly die in order to appreciate being embodied.

At the hospital, I asked the doctor how I could ever repay her. She said: “Maria, it’s been an honor working with you. Just pay it forward.” What doctor says that to a patient — one with nothing to hold on to, on her way out to face the world? An angel of mercy and compassion wearing a white robe. Quan Yin with a stethoscope telling me to love myself and others throughout the rest of my days. That was enough.

And so here I am, resting in peace NOW. As Anita Moorjani asks: “what if heaven is here and now?”

I hope we’ll all take a moment to practice deep gratitude today, to get all tantra, love up, and hug another if not ourselves — to feel, in every crevice of our being, and every space between every cell, the wonderment of being alive in the body. Even when it hurts. Hold only just so to the silk rope of being— gently, so nothing snaps — yet firmly enough, to sway another day in the current. The tether is precious. You are, always have been, and always will be pure love living in flesh and bone, carried through life with a beating heart. Honor yourself.

–Originally published on Medium.

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