This was the primary teaching at the recent MAPS conference I attended on the use of psychedelics and death and dying. The hope is that by embracing the inevitable conclusion of cycles and eventual final death of our lives, that we can cherish the gift of the breath that is in our lungs today- while we have it.
It’s no wonder that we find this challenging, as our youth-obsessed (and juvenile IMO) culture has yet to mature to hold death just as sacred as life.

So instead, we infuse it with cartoonish skeletons or hideously macabre images relegated to October (if we’re lucky to not get the onslaught of commercialized Christmas decor to overshadow it). And though bringing shadowy concepts into life has a way of normalizing otherwise avoided content, it often lacks a deeper consideration of what it means to face darkness, the unknown and mysterious parts of our human experience.

This tendency is mirrored in our inner terrain, where we “put behind us” that which feels uncomfortable and difficult- and we wonder why so many of us suffer from back pain? This unprocessed content often comes to face those on death’s door- making the transition process evermore complicated for everyone involved. Embracing the call of this moment can take the form of receiving earnest reflections from trusted allies, contemplation practices, and grieving rituals (with or without the assistance of plant medicines) to compost the past into its next phase of the cycle.  Indigenous author and teacher, Martin Prechtel shares the importance of honoring the composting process as a critical feature of that which gives life. Traditional cultures celebrated an honored this decomposition with altars, sacred items and prayer that gave thanks to the previous form so that the next form would be imbued with homage to the entire life cycle.

Studies have found that engaging in such efforts can help us embrace change, accept transitions and tolerate challenging catharsis without avoidance. Watch wise woman, Sobonfu Some on the importance of Grieving and Recovery. 

May we all find the courage (and thus encourage those we love) to open up just a little more this season to the cleansing and reconciliation opportunity of this moment.

Photo Credit: Mohamed Nohassi