by Ali Valdez
Are we ever ready to truly say goodbye? Are we ever truly ready for change not meted by our own hand?
There is something about the death of a celebrity that jolts the general public into rumination on dying and the injustice of us all at some point taking our final bow. This week, we saw several beloved celebrities dying of heart failure all in their mid-fifties. This is not an age too far from many of my students. It is unsettling when your childhood idols, princess warriors played by Carrie Fisher and your junior high prom song crooners like George Michael leaving so suddenly. It is saddening but also slightly amusing to see the “F— You 2016” memes choking up like tears on my social media feeds. But this is 2016, and it’s been a cruel and curiouser and curiouser year.
So now what?!
In yoga, we teach of kleshas, or forms of suffering created by the illusions and fluctuations of our minds. One of those is the idea of clinging to life or having a fear of dying, abhinivesa. It is the natural process of life to let go, say goodbye. In numerology, the year of 2016 signifies a year of endings (2+0+1+6=9). This should come as no surprise, because we have steadily seen this year build up to an inevitable and for many, devastating denouement. Things as we seemed to have once known them now seem disrupted and a new air of uncertainty perfumes the air with an acrid stench. No one seems to have a problem bidding adieu to 2016.
Nothing is harder than practicing non-attachment, especially when we devote our heart and soul to an endeavor, relationship or shape our understanding of the world as we want to know, conceptualize and understand it.
Yet life is never a one-size fits all and last time I checked, Willy Wonka doesn’t really give out golden tickets just for showing up, especially in 2016.
The idea of non-attachment, vairagya, is a regular theme in my yoga teachings because attachments take such varied shapes and sizes and sometimes insidiously weave into our conscious being in unconscious ways. The more awake we become, the more we realize we commit to doing the work, operating in earnest from a core set of ethics, standards and a foundational belief system. After that, all bets are off. Many circumstances in life seem unfair, but it’s counter-productive to play the victim. Many outcomes are not desired, leaving us in despair, heartbroken that the scenarios played out like a Greek tragedy, but it’s no use resisting the flow of the inevitable.
Honoring your feelings and taking time to craft your farewells in rituals, writing or prayers is a rewarding and vital process. When we lose someone, it is like a link in the chain that connects our lives breaks and drops away. We are forced to ideate new shapes and fashion new starts. My daughter recently wrote it’s like sitting in traffic next to a bright yellow car. The light seems to stay red forever, all cars standing still and then the light goes green and the yellow car zooms off, now never again to be seen.
But please do not despair. There is so much good in all the parts of play along the way. We smile at the start, delight on the path, revel in the journey. Who doesn’t embrace the experience of being loved and sharing love in return?
The good news is 2017 is a year of new beginnings; this is a time when anything can be possible. Maybe the goodbyes are for a temporary reason, perhaps something better is destined to come along. Either way, regardless of circumstance, we are solid bodies built to appreciate, learn, laugh, mourn and live. We can set our sights on new experiences fashioned from lessons learned from the past and keep our focus on the future. But today and this moment are truly the only things within our grasp.
Today, I will celebrate life.