as the days grow shorter and the dark time grows longer we become more aware of thanatos, the ancient greek personification of death, the instinct to die.
in a lifetime we have died many times. our cells are continuously dying. we acquire new abilities and knowledge, and that which is no longer needed dies. we witness death each winter as the roses fade, turn brown and die.
this is the couch potato energy in all of us! it is the part of us that just wants to lie down and do nothing. it is the part that loves to daydream, relax and sleep. we do this instinctively.
the psychologist, stanley keleman, in living your dying, reminds us that “the body knows how to die. we are born knowing about dying.” and while we know about dying, our culture has conditioned us to think only of growth, expansion and achievement. what of quiet, stillness, inward-looking and contemplation? this is the home of thanatos.
to welcome and include this instinct, this inner reflection, is part of the work of spiritual eldering. when let go of the panic and denial of death, we can embrace thanatos energy to guide us in a life filled with a larger view. keleman also encourages us to live “.... a new myth, a new vision of maturity and longevity. we are not victims of dying; death does not victimize us.”
balancing the movement inward of thanatos and the movement outward of the instinct toward life is the work of conscious ageing. this is the balance between yin and yang, centripetal and centrifugal forces. and in the time of eldering, the centripetal, yin force is in ascendence. it helps us to become more contemplative. it allows us to choose to stay in at night in the dark, cold time of the year. it allows us to find new avenues for our creative energy. it allows us to grow and expand internally. it allows us to find meaning in the life we have lived and the life we are living.
the dying of the year, the winter solstice, brings with it the light of the next cycle...the instinct toward death and the instinct toward life flow into one another seamlessly, effortlessly, gracefully in each moment.
(this post was inspired by rabbi zalman schachter-shalomi and his book from age-ing to sage-ing.)