Death and Transformation | The Beautiful-Ugly

As we nurture our true, inner being, the leaves of our outer or false self change and fall away. This can be a kind of death. 

Sometimes that process is a slow and lingering one filled with beauty and transformation. 

Sometimes the pruning winds of experience and harsh reality rip them off. 

At other times? Rather than embracing the vibrant colours of change and joyfully fulfilling their destiny, they just quietly, almost shamefully, wither, turn brown and mold away out of existence in the hopes that no one notices.

Death | Release, rejoining

Once while I was walking by a still lake in the interior of British Columbia, I was struck by the sight of a magnificent maple tree. 

The top of the crown was fiery red as though it were dipped in divine blood. As my eyes moved down and across, the colours shifted from red to orange to pink and then yellow. It was seated in the life giving green of the earth it sat upon.  It was stunningly beautiful. 

As I gazed at the wonder, I was suddenly struck — this is a death process, a release or shedding. It was and is amazingly beautiful. 

In that moment, the most vibrant and beautiful leaves were the red ones. They are likely also the ones that will be the first to fall, to fade, to die…to eventually rejoin the earth from which they came.  There is a deep and sacred truth to this — spiritually, emotionally, and physically. 

Death as letting go

I’ve personally experienced all of these transitions and I am grateful for each and every leaf that has fallen away.  Each leaf is a piece of my ego, a bit of my outer self that has fed and supported me and helped to create me into the person that I am today.  I’m grateful that its time has been fulfilled and that it is now time to fall away despite the pruning pain that it may cause.  Now is the time to uncover and reveal my inner being. My true being. My little “i am” sitting in the midst God’s great “I AM”.  For that is my essence, my trunk, my root.  That is what really matters.

Since my Mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing, Death has never been far from my mind.  This image of the maple tree has stayed with me. It has given me assurance even in the midst of the uncertainty of a scary diagnosis, or even death. 

Our physical life is much like these leaves.  We are only here for a season and then each and every one of us is gone.  I believe we have a choice — we can either embrace the incredible beauty of the process of dying, see the meaning in the pain rather than be consumed by it completely, or we can just wither and fall away into decay. 

My hope is that we all might settle into the journey, and welcome the change of the the colours. Shifting from green to yellow, pink, orange, and finally a rejoicing red as we ultimately fall away to the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…”. Finally to rejoin the very root and fibre of our essence: Original Love.

Death as a shared experience

I could not have faced into this type of work alone. This depth of spiritual work is incredibly vulnerable and, to be quite honest, felt dangerous to venture into on my own. I needed the steady, grounded presence of my own Spiritual Director to sit with me as I asked the hard questions that lead, and continue to lead, me to my own personal spiritual transformation.

If you are looking for some support for either yourself or someone you love, consider reaching out. If you are currently in grief, you may find solace in this Encountering Grief meditation with Roshi Joan Halifax.

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