Even though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I shall fear no evil.
– Psalm 23
In Buddhism, Shiva, the creator and the destroyer, represents the process of breaking down that needs to occur prior to being able to build back up. Nature is filled with examples of this idea of death and rebirth. A wave breaks on the shore before being pulled back out into the ocean, only to form again. The tree dies, decomposes and becomes the nutrients for the seedlings. This is a natural cycle, yet for some reason in our Western culture we shirk away from the idea of death.
The idea of death can become pervasive for me when moving through the painful aspects of the emotions of change. It is then that I often experience pain in a way that leads me to want to die. (Hang up the phone, there’s no need to call for help.) This is a passive wish for which I do not take harmful actions. Over the years and with learning compassion for myself, I have learned that this “death wish” is only temporary. This is the part of me that no longer works for me; the part of me that needs to be released or transformed. It is the part of me that needs love the most at that moment and it is that part of me that is dying to be loved. Literally.
By being compassionate with myself, by performing my self-care rituals such as meditating, going within, chanting mantras or just being still and honoring the part of myself that is “dying” to be reborn, I find that I can move more quickly through this cycle of death. For this is not a true death; instead it is the shadow, or the threat, of death. It is my belief that this is what is meant in Psalm 23. Death is but a shadow that lurks around us. It is our fear of the shadow that gives it the power to control us. By having faith, we are able to move through the valley (“I shall fear no evil, for thine rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23).
The challenge comes in releasing attachment to the part of me that is dying. The attachment to “who I thought I was” is where the suffering begins, and if I chose to allow it, to also end. Loving myself into my strength looks like, and sometimes feels like, death.
By honoring the natural cycle of death and rebirth, I can keep moving through the process. By honoring myself, through compassion, I am able to be reborn. I am able to leave behind that which no longer serves me.
Photo Courtesy of Nick Coombs on FreeDigitalPhotos.net