The iNTERSTiTiAL Nature of Death

Is it possible to think about death without conjuring up its negative associations of sadness, suicidal thoughts, loss, fear, doom and gloom? What arises in your mind when you contemplate the word death? Is there a sense of discomfort, shunning, grief, memories better left untouched?

 Unpleasant are the feelings of loss and grief which beg to be avoided, but death is every bit a part of life, not merely the opposite of it. What if you allowed death to take a larger presence, a more normalized meaning than only when the big “D” Death crosses your path?

 Here’s the thing – death comes to us much more often over our lifetime than when a loved one physically dies (or for that matter oneself). There are many small “d” deaths you may experience which come from letting go of or giving up something that doesn’t serve you in order to step into a larger life.

 Think of a time when it became apparent that you lost control and/or were unhappy with your life, (or perhaps it is now). You knew deep down inside you needed to let go of something familiar and comfortable, but it required stepping toward uncertainty. Can you bring that experience to mind? Now see if you remember hearing the fears and resistance from the voices in your mind. They fed you all sorts of reasons to counter the deeper longings and wisdom that were begging you to take those scary steps. They made convincing arguments about hanging out in protected safety. Your mind’s fear struggled with your soul’s longing.

 If you choose to believe the mind’s stories and dwell in that struggle on a daily basis, you end up living a life based in fear, and underlying that is ultimately the fear of death. Although it’s not the big “D” physical Death, even the little “d” deaths of letting go is a form of dying, which can elicit the same “avoidance at all cost” decisions.

 But listening with the ears of your heart to all the other voices of yourself speaking, will begin to bring awareness to the mind’s dictates that keep you small and bring you down. With greater awareness, you realize you don’t have to focus your identity on the protected safety of your anxieties. There is a way to live a freer, fuller life, but the choice to have a relationship with death is not an easy one.

 As David Whyte writes in his poem, “Sweet Darkness”, you must, “Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” Death in any form can take us into a shadowy place. Much like navigating grief when the big “D” Death comes, it takes time, inner work, and surrounding yourself with people who support you through the emotional waves of the unknown.

 Choosing to cultivate a courageous conversation with death, rather than shunning and avoiding it until the ultimate happens, develops a life-oriented relationship. You are more willing to live your life, even the shadows. Daring to look into your dark heart is like going on an archeological, soulful dig so you can un-layer the selves whose deeper messages can bring you alive. The more you step out of your comfort, and connect with your vulnerabilities, the more you build inner strength to live a fierce soul-filled and spiritual path with death spurring you on.

Lisa Diane McCall