In the spring of 2016, about 3 months before I became pregnant with baby Mila, my partner and I went on 5 day Ayurveda cleanse.
The cleanse consisted of cooking and consuming fresh made food (primarily kitchadi) for 5 days as well as other practices including meditation, oil baths, and limited screen time.
I received guidelines on this cleanse from my primary Mysore Ashtanga teacher, Magnolia at Mysore SF.
Meditation on Death
In Aryuveda, the best time to do a cleanse is during the transitional seasons, spring and fall.
The actual cleanse was much more detailed than what I'll cover here, however stay tuned in the future for more information. Once I've completed my studies in Ayurveda I will share my journey on the next seasonal cleanse.
The intention behind the cleanse that I did in 2016 was to prepare my body for conception.
One of the practices I chose to do for the 5 days was a meditation on death.
Yes, you heard me. Morbid right?
This wasn't prescribed by my teacher, but it was calling to me at the time so I decided to do it. Maybe the universe was preparing me for what was to come. A foretelling of the experience my near brush with death during child birth.
One of the greatest klesas, or root of human suffering is Abinivesa. The fear of death.
It's one that all conscious beings experience at one point or another. We not only avoid conversations about the inevitably of death, but we try to not think about it too much, in the hope that by some magic we will escape it.
It's probably why some people (ahem, meaning me) are totally obsessed with vampire shows (at least I used to be). Yes, yes, vampirism is SO NOT Ahimsa, but you have to admit the allure of immortality is pretty strong, well because of abinivesa.
But I digress...
Meditation on death.
The first time I did this meditation there was a huge block in my mind against it. It was like part of me wanted to deny the practice. All I wanted to do was to stop the audio guide and get up of my seat and do anything else but think about death.
In the first portion of this meditation, I was to imagine letting go of material items... ok not so difficult, but still felt a bit sticky.
However, as I was asked to slowly de-tangle and let go of my relationships one by one, I felt waves of fear and sadness. I cried every single time I went through this practice. I was so relieved when the cleanse was over so I could place this meditation on the shelf and not have to re-visit again.
The most difficult attachment for me was the visualization of saying good bye to my children and the unbearable, heart wrenching thought of never seeing them again. But I know, some day, that day will come.
Every time I kiss them or watch them go out the door, I imprint their faces, the touch of their skin, their scent with the knowing that life can take a drastic turn at any moment. I tell them emphatically how much I love them and hold them in my heart.
The thing about nearly dying? It give us a whole new appreciation for every present moment because we just don't know when we may slip on that banana peel.
The Impermanence of Practice
When I first began practicing ashtanga yoga, I was really excited as my practice began to change. Because when we practice mysore style ashtanga as a daily practice with the same set series of postures, there is a baseline for "progress." Practice long enough and you'll begin to "acquire" postures. For many students who start on this path, it can be thrilling for a little while. Then the thrills wear off, honeymoon phase is over and we hit a plateau.
But, if we are lucky to practice long enough, we may also experience "losing" postures. Either through injury, illness, or major life altering events (in my case a third child) - we say good bye to those asanas we worked so "hard" to acquire through discipline, achy stiffness, bleary mornings, blood (hello ashtanga toe) and tears.
Slowly, slowly we come back to the mat and the postures return. Some postures return quickly, like they never left, others, transformed into something new.
But what about when we begin to lose postures with the knowledge that they're never going to come back?
Will we continue to show up every day and practice?
Can we accept the new reality with grace, despite disappointment and fear? The inevitability of the one thing that we are all 100% guaranteed to experience?
Can we practice letting go?
Can we continue to love our body, ourselves, to cherish the very breath that we take? This breath, and the next, and the next... knowing with each one we get to still be embodied in this amazing life?
Can we understand then, that we are not this body?
Can we accept then, as my teacher says: "this body, this body does not belong to us. It is merely on loan for just a little while."
We take care of this loaner body through practice.
We maintain its inner and outer workings through practice. We nourish ourselves from what we eat, watch, hear, read and the company we keep.
For some day, this body, this body will be completely transformed, it's mysteries laid barren, it's elements released back to the earth.
Keep practicing yogis, take care of this amazing vehicle that's giving you the ride of your life.