Memento Mori

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase that loosely translates as remember you will die. Having had to say goodbye to a friend who passed away last week, made me think a lot about death and dying. Her memorial service was beautiful and did justice to the unique and extraordinary person that she was. It was a Christian service and a lot of emphasis was placed on her soul being ‘saved’, and how the one life she has been given, she used well. And so, being confronted with a view of death that I do not prescribe to, I found myself contemplating my own view on it. So what follows is a reflection of my beliefs and values, and by no means something I need or want anyone else to hold as their truth. Remember that the purpose of my blog is simply a way for me to make sense of my own life and beliefs, and not to ‘convert’ anyone to my views.

I do not believe that we ever die. Energy cannot be destroyed, and our souls will live on regardless of not having a physical form. I also believe that our souls are perfect and need no ‘saving’. I am only using this body, as an eternal soul, to experience life. In yoga philosophy the soul is refered to as Atman, or the individual true Self, and we are being reincarnated over and over again on the wheel of samsara until we have burned all of our “bad” karma and we become enlightened and do not have to come back to a life on earth. I am not sure that I actually buy into the “wheel of samsara” theory, as it seems a tad too negative and limiting, just as I do not believe in the Christian view of heaven and hell. I still struggle to make sense of my soul’s need to experience life in physical form, and the reasons why it wanted to incarnate in this specific body and this specific life, but I am sure it must have its reasons…

Another yoga concept that is applicable here is the concept of maya or “illusion”. As we experience life through our five senses, and are therefore limited by the physical in our experience and understanding of life, the bigger truths about a concept like reincarnation may elude us while in physical form. As everything we experience is impermanent, it can be said to not be “real”. What we experience through our senses certainly feels real, but there exists another reality that our senses simply has no access to, even though we at times may receive glimpses of it. This reality is called Brahman, which when directly translated from Sanskrit means “that without attributes”. This is the Divine, the Cosmic Consciousness, the Universe, God… It is infinite, unchanging, eternal and ever-present. Unlike the religious version of God, Brahman has no human attributes and is also not personified at all. It is an energy, a reality that is hard for the human mind to fathom.

The reality is then that life is eternal and we are simply not the sum total of our bodies. Yet, we identify so with our bodies that we often neglect the soul and its yearnings. We find many ways of ‘abusing’ our bodies, and when the body complains we submit it to even more punishment in the form of deprivations and over-indulgences. We buy into what we are told to feel about our bodies.  Relentless advertisers desperate to sell their products, not only promise eternal beauty, health and youth at times, but also make claims on our self-esteem and belief system. And we believe them.

I see my body as a temporary vehicle that only serves to facilitate my human experience. It is through my body that I am confronted with life. The quality of my life certainly depends on the state I keep my body in, and as a result I am very much aware of the different choices I make and how it will impact on my physical state. I also know that there is a fine line between taking care of and obsessing about my body, and realise that, because of the impermanence of any state of being, so my body changes, and I will daily be confronted with new choices to make.

When I contemplate the impermanence of my current body and life, I experience an emotion I cannot quite define. Fear seems too strong a word to use, but as it is a state that in my current consciousness is something I am unfamiliar with, I experience the same set of mixed emotions I feel every time I need to do something new that will take me out of whatever current comfort zone I find myself in.

What I know for sure is that life is dynamic, and with my ever-changing consciousness, so will my ideas, values and beliefs also be in constant motion. The thought of dying, if nothing else, should call us to life, and to value and appreciate our bodies and the many blessing we receive on a daily basis, while celebrating the Atman.

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2 Comments

  1. September 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Love that last paragraph: beautiful post, thank you. Memento Mori.

    • dreamlite said,

      September 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks Kate. The one thing we cannot avoid in life is death, yet we are so reluctant to think and even talk about it. As if it will go away if we ignore it.


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