I am no stranger to Death. In fact the lessons dealt by this dreaded professor are what catapulted me into spiritual study. Following the deaths of my father and my husband in a short time span, I spiraled down the rabbit hole to find Death waiting for me – lesson book in hand. A knowing grin slowly spreading across her face. We gave each other a look, tilting our heads to the side in curiosity and the training began. Death – as the Buddha said – is the Great Teacher, and she had just been presented with a disgruntled, rebellious student.
Death has been my coach for some time now. As a Buddhist, a critical part of my practice is contemplating Death; my own as well as others’. As a yogi, I know that one of the five great obstacles to Enlightenment (as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) is Fear of Death. How do we overcome that innate paralyzing fear of our own mortality? Pretty much the same technique we apply to any fear we may feel: hold onto our wildly beating heart and face it. Look it squarely in its beady little eyes. Make friends with it, become familiar with it, get to know it intimately. The more I snuggle up with Death, the easier I am in its arms.
I once participated in a group where we planned our own funerals. An alternative to the fear and loathing usually associated with dying, I nicknamed the sessions Fun with Death! In contemplating our own deaths and the subsequent celebrations to follow, we considered many questions: What to do with the body: Burial? Cremation? Launch the ashes into space or perhaps incorporate my remains into an artificial ocean reef? (I’m leaning towards following in the ash steps of Hunter S. Thompson with a ritual scattering by canon blast and fireworks.) Who should speak? Who shouldn’t speak? Open casket? If so what shall I (the corpse) wear? Flowers? Music? Shall we release butterflies, doves, and/or penguins? Party favors? We also wrote our own obituary. An extremely valuable exercise, we delved deeply into our resistance to the mortal coil. Uncomfortable in the beginning, we were funeral party freaks by the end of the sessions.
These days I am feeling the urge to contact my Fun with Death posse due to a new idea that’s hit the net. Leave it to Facebook to bring technology into the morgue. Forget Farmville, Mafia Wars and Pet Society. Those apps are soooo last lifetime. The hottest new app is “If I Die”.
If I Die allows you to leave a message - video or text - from the great beyond. The user appoints three friends (sensibly referred to as Trustees) to verify your death and upon that verification, the app is triggered to play. The messages can post all at once or be doled out as status updates. Willook, the Israeli based developers, suggest leaving behind “a final farewell, a long-held secret, or even one last insult, depending on a person’s preference. “The developer is very clear that ‘no one, not even anyone at the company, can see the messages that users create until their death is verified.’” The Facebook (FB) folks have crafted a heartwarming tutorial video starring an adorable little Grim Reaper icon who asks you, in their official tag line, “What will you leave behind?”
My initial chuckle came from the title of the app, If I Die. Let’s be honest and rename it When I Die. Really, do I need to leave a last status update? Shall I postpone my death-bed confessions to facilitate a bigger, better bang with FB? Why have a few last words with the family if I can leave a post-mortem message for 379 FB friends? The app also speaks to our deep desire for immortality. Hey, I’m not dead if my FB page is still up, right?
Welcome to Death 2.0, my friends. Bigger, better, upgraded! I think I’ll time my updates to coincide with my funereal canon blast and fireworks extravaganza. Why fear Death when you just know the party is going to be totally epic?
Contact yogashanan at www.tehachapiyoga.com before it’s too late!