Embracing Death and Awakening Liberation
My father took his own life. My lung collapsed twice in one week. My sister is going to jail. The past two years have presented me with unprecedented hardships, challenges, and insurmountable suffering. Having to stare death in the face, with no ground under my feet, was terrifying, and unimaginably difficult.
But I have come to realize through yogic practices, such as meditation, that it was not so much the feelings that created the immense suffering, it was my resistance to them. By holding on to the hope that my life might get better, I robbed myself of the present moment. The Buddhist dharma has been a sanctuary for me because it has taught me to be an intrepid wanderer: to fearlessly embrace impermanence as the nature of life itself, to cozy up to change, and befriend supposed enemies.
Through this process of embracing Buddhism’s non-theism, I have been able to let go of the expectations of how I think things should be and, instead, relax into the uncertainty of the present–without having to reach for something to shield myself. It’s coming to terms with the truth that it is up to us as individuals to change, perceive things differently, and create happiness in our life. No one is able to do that for us. And even with support, we have to face painful difficulties so that they may be resolved. By accepting pain and vulnerability, we are able to collectively transcend a lot of suffering.
Death, especially in our Western culture, is continually denied, hidden, and pushed away. It’s the denial of change and fear of the unknown that keeps us from moving forward with our life and awakening to our true nature. Perhaps we do whither away and die and if we believe this, it will be so. Or perhaps there are other possibilities. We do live in a universe with unlimited possibilities and outcomes–and death is beaten back and chased away at every opportunity. It is this underlying fear that elicits controlling, manipulative, or harmful behavior toward others–believing that in some way it will benefit our own life–like eating the flesh or the secretions of animals, which ultimately harms all involved. By letting go of the fear of death, we more deeply understand the interconnectedness of all life and our unique purpose of being in the world. This is yoga. It’s not about escaping life or defeating death, but being in the now and having an honest, radiant, and genuine relationship with not only our Self, but with every being we encounter.
Embracing and letting go of the fear of death and uncertainty in our lives is liberating. It seems counter-intuitive because our unhealthy ego naturally wants to escape these feelings and concepts. Leaning in, instead of running away from pain and suffering gives us the space to experience whatever the present moment may bring and the ability to accept it, and even transmute it as an alchemist into a vehicle for awakening.
Viewed from that higher perspective, suffering is grace. It shows us where we are stuck. Present moment awareness and resisting nothing are the keys.
“You find peace not by rearranging circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” — Eckhart Tolle
Dhani Haney’s yoga journey began at a ripe young age when his fascination and practice of modern dance crossed over to the world of yoga. Dhani completed the 300-hour World Peace Yoga teaching certification and is continuing to advance his studies. Dhani feels the most fundamental thing we are able to do as humans is to deprogram cultural diversion and work on our own consciousness by being present in love.