Friday, April 6, 2012

Slavery, Freedom, Death, and Rebirth

This is an intense weekend. Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, marks the day Jesus died on the cross. Friday night is the first night of Passover, the Jewish holiday during which we remember the Exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom. Sunday is Easter, that when divorced from bunnies and chocolates, is a celebration of Jesus rising from death.

When a large number of people think about the same ideas, those ideas permeate the world in which we live. I discussed this before in regards to the Christmas spirit.  Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays. In part, it was because it was our “family” holiday, the time we all got together. But it also symbolizes an escape from slavery and the jubilation that comes with freedom. 

Exodus is a big word. It is not just an escape. It is a grand departure. Death and rebirth are not small topics. They are, perhaps, the deepest conversations we can have. It is not chronologically a coincidence that Passover and Easter are usually close together; Jesus’ last supper was a Passover Seder. It is also not a coincidence these events happen in spring, the season of renewal, the reminder that there will be sun and warmth ahead (even with a little wind and imbalance) after the cold, dark winter (unless you live in Arizona in which case it was a mild, sunny winter).

But more importantly, it is not a coincidence with their themes. In order to break free from slavery, we have to let our old selves die, and wake up to a new world and to new possibilities. We have to be willing to see the world through beginner’s eyes. But that is a scary prospect. Letting go of who we are today, even if we know that tomorrow will be better, can paralyze us with fear. And yet, at this time of year, we hold these themes in our collective consciousness, and we ask ourselves how we can make them part of our daily lives.

Today, we hear the slavery metaphor a lot. We talk about being enslaved by work, addicted to our electronic devices (crackberry, anyone?), and torn between time for ourselves and time for other people. But we only have to see it as enslavement if we choose. What if we were able to see our freedom of choice in every single moment? What if we decided to start today?

Yoga gives us the perfect opportunity to teach ourselves how to wake up as new people. At the end of a yoga practice, we do savasana, corpse pose (apparently this Easter/Passover theme about savasana has appeared before on this blog). That prior post does not, however, get into what savasana really is. It is meant to be a death. It is called corpse pose for a reason. It is where our old self dies, and we can be reborn. We can come out of savasana a new person, open to possibilities. We can have an empty mind.

Savasana is the reminder that we will wake back up after the fear of letting our old selves go. We can let go of beliefs about ourselves and others. We can let go of our fears and hindrances. We can let our old selves disapear knowing that we will emerge. Passover, of course, ends with the jubilation of the escape. It leaves out the next 40 years wandering in the desert. It is a brief moment in time to be thankful for the freedom, but it leaves out the fear that comes next, sometimes immediately. Each moment we overcome a particular individual enslavement, we feel a moment of jubilation . . . and then the fear sets in, and we remember we have to wander the desert, whatever that is in our life.

Yoga is the foundation to remind us that we can continuously come back to our practice and make our choice each and every day. We can let it got, we can wake back up, and we can find our own freedom in each moment. While Passover and Easter teach us the big themes and bring them into our collective consciousness, yoga gives us the day-to-day tools to remember that each moment is a choice, and we can carry these themes with us throughout our days, weeks, and months. I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday weekend, whether you celebrate or not. 

How do you carry these themes with you throughout your daily lives?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.