Reflections on Orgasmic Living and "La Grande Mort"

St. Francis held by an Angel by Gent  ileschi

St. Francis held by an Angel by Gentileschi

I am deeply touched by all the lovely messages I received last week for my 35th birthday. To be honest, I was feeling a little sad and scared about being in my (gasp) mid-30's. I had all this social programming telling me that I "should" have had my career success by now and that I "should" jump on motherhood ASAP (ya know, the infamous biological clock).

As I reflected on my life, one based on Orgasmic Living (i.e. surrendering to the unknown, living in the involuntary, faith in intuition, etc), part of me felt like a failure and...well...too old to do anything about it. I walked into the burn afraid of my impending death and paralyzed as I considered the eventual deaths of my beloveds. 

Then came the great dust storm of 2015. For 5+ hours I walked with a group of friends to the temple and back with nearly zero visibility much of the time. The ironic fact that I was literally walking "into the void" did not escape me. 

During my time at the temple, I discovered that I didn't feel the usual amount of pain and grief that typically comes when I see the thousands of memorials to those who've passed. I wondered if I had become hardened to sadness. I was waiting to be "cracked open" and when it didn't come, I felt guilty.

Then I needed to lie down. As the earth hugged me, I noticed an intense desire for comfort. My husband chose to skip this burn, so I shivered, cold in my loneliness.

Then I heard a voice. I couldn't see Her, but I felt Her presence. Death came and wrapped her merciful arms around me. And in that moment I began a new relationship with Death--one that was filled with such gratitude. I began to cry, so thankful that Death exists and that nothing lasts forever. It was surprising to discover not just grief within those wooden walls, but joy. My prayer for "more life" resonated even deeper because I found myself in the arms of Death.

The next day I attended a Shamanic Death and Rebirth Ceremony. I felt called to dig deeper into this new relationship with Death. Almost immediately, I began to cry again as the profound love that Death has for us all poured from my heart.

Finally, as I watched the temple burn on Sunday night, the power and depth that Death brings to every moment washed over me as the wood and copper structure quickly tumbled to the ground.

Of course, I am not ready to physically die just yet. Nor do I wish that upon my beloveds. This life is just too sweet right now. 

And this post isn't meant to gloss over the grief and tragedy that comes with facing mortality and the unbearable brutality that exists in this world.

For me, my experience simply expanded my perception of Death to include both the horror and the beauty. It gave me a little peace in my heart as I meditated upon this inevitable fact of being human. It presented the possibility that there is a miracle tucked inside the day of my death, just as we celebrate the miracle in the day of my birth.

As I return to my new home and my beloved partner (who drew me a rose-petal birthday bath, unloaded my playafied car and cooked me dinner) and my art and the world I've built around me, I feel a little more hopeful that life can get better with age. I see now that these current social fears on death and aging are just our culture's deep terror of facing the Mystery. And I am learning to trust (a little bit more) that there is exactly the right amount of life left in me to do everything I need during my time here.

It's the one who won't be taken who can not seem to give;
And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.
--The Rose by Bette Midler