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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Circle of Life

What a gorgeous creature!

It stared me down suspiciously!
 As I was driving down our subdivision after dropping the kids off to school, I saw a dead animal of some sort in the middle of the road and what appeared to be a rather large bird pecking at it's rotting flesh.  I realized that it had to be a vulture. I parked a little ways away and stepped out of my car and started taking pictures. The vulture walked away from the carcass and waited on the sidewalk, hoping I would leave so that it could continue feasting. Losing it's patience, after just a minute, it flew to the roof of a house nearby where it's partner in crime was waiting.  Seeing the remains of this animal made me think about the circle of life. We're all born, we live and then we die. The only thing we have control over is what we do while we're living.

There is this visualization exercise that I've often done as part of workshops that I've facilitated. It's where I ask people to visualize that they've walked into someone's funeral. As they walk up to the open casket, they realize that it's them lying in there. They then look around to see their loved ones mourning their death. I ask them to imagine what their family and friends might be saying about them. Then I ask them if they are okay with what is being said about them.

Sadly, most people are too shocked to even imagine their own demise. Many are in denial about the impending passage of death that we must all go through. I have found that people live as if they'll live forever, thus being careless with their choices, their actions and their words. But the reality is that everything and everybody that lives, eventually dies. There is nothing scary or bad about death. In fact, death is an inevitable finish line to this life that if we allow it, keeps us honest. 

Going back to the visualization exercise, most people in the group usually end up realizing that they don't like what is being said in death by those who were closest to them in life. 
They reflect on what needs to change in their lives so that they are happy in death. 
I invite you to think about this for a bit. What do you suppose your loved ones will say about who you were as a person and what kind of life you led when you were alive? (Please stop and really think about this. Better yet, write it down before moving down to the next question).

Ask yourselves, are you happy with how you're being remembered? (Please think about and/or write the answer to this question before moving on)

If you're happy with what you heard, then God bless you and may you always stay on this path. But if you're not completely satisfied with your reaction, then perhaps it's time to do some further digging.
Perhaps there are things that we want to and need to change in our lives. Gathering the courage to make the changes can be monumental. It might be changing careers to listen to our heart's calling which might involve a pay cut and a lifestyle cut and invite scrutiny by those around us. Or it might be having the courage to end a relationship or a friendship which we have more than outgrown but once again, invites scrutiny into our lives by others.  These decisions, which might seem really obvious and simple for the outsider are some of the most challenging, soul-searching and gut wrenching decisions that one who is faced with them, will ever make. 

Having been in a few of these situations where I needed to make such a decision, I know with absolute faith that it does eventually get better.  "This too shall pass, it always does." 
But at the time, I was sleepwalking through life, numb to the pain, dysfunction and abuse around me, be it in my work environment or my so called friendships and certainly in my marriage.  (Please understand that I do not blame or hold anyone person accountable for my pain and grief. I understand these situations as wonderful opportunities provided by God to learn certain lessons which can only be learned by going through a certain situation.)

I have to admit that I was not strong enough to make a decision for myself in these situations, so I know that God intervened on my behalf. God knew that I would never quit my job, friendship, relationship or marriage because I was complacent in that situation no matter how unhealthy it was for me. So God made it so that I was let go from work, or the so called friend moved away and my husband decided to leave the marriage, our children and the family home. And as tough as it was, having spent countless, sleepless nights spent crying tears which seem to spill uncontrollably from a never-ending well of betrayal, abandonment and hurt, I survived. Not only did I survive, I flourished!!! 

It is said that, "Hindsight is 20/20", and "Time heals all wounds."  I must say there is a certain truth to both of these sayings. I certainly am grateful for the pain, hurt and loss that I endured because it contributed to who I am as a human being today. Had I not gone through that, I would not be where I am today, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Thus the circle of life applies not only to all living beings but to all living things (for lack of a better word). Friendships, relationships, marriages etc are all living things and thus all things must encounter death be it rhetorically or physically.
But we must embrace the blessings that come with all of these and offer gratitude for the opportunity for our soul to grow. 

May you have love and light in your life.
May you have the courage to live your own truths.
May you have the humility and faith to survive death no matter what form it comes to you in.
May you have an open heart to learn the lessons being offered to your soul.
May you always have peace, love and contentment!

From one Sufi to another,

So this was the dead rat or something. I have intentionally made this picture as small as I could for those of us that have a weak stomach. Death is certainly not pretty.