Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Skeletal Perspective

     I love deep tissue massages; nurturing, healing body work enhancing my physical and emotional well-being. However, I know people who, after completing a session, described it as being akin to torture. And no doubt, others would describe their deep tissue massage experience as falling somewhere between heaven and hell.
     During our hour-long appointments, the therapist and I may engage in conversation, but often, the massage occurs in silence. This way, I can consciously tune in to each area of my body as it is being worked on, adding a serene meditative aspect to the experience. 
     Near the end of my last session, while lying face up on the massage table with eyes closed, covered only with a thin blanket, the notion of being on a gurney in a morgue came to mind. It occurred to me that the position I was lying in on the table will likely be the same one my body will be placed in once my life force has departed. Adorned with a toe tag, there may be some poking and prodding before being whisked away to its final destination. And for those choosing burial rather than cremation, their body would be buried in this same position, and years later, only their skeleton would remain.
     This observation came without any sadness or fear; a neutral perspective positioned between the macabre connotations of skeletons during Hallowe'en festivities and the upbeat energy it represents during Day of the Dead celebrations. A vivid reminder of how integral perspective is in terms of how one experiences life, and death.
Artist: Jacques Gamlin

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Following Sacred Footsteps


     Powerful waterfalls, stark black lava fields, massive glaciers, flora-covered tundra, imposing volcanic mountains, boiling mud-filled cauldrons and dramatic coastlines ... this is Iceland's impressive, and at times surreal, landscape. While circumnavigating this country by car, at almost every turn, we found yet another striking new scene waiting to greet us. So one morning, near the end of our trip, I was surprised to discover that the first recommended stop of the day appeared to be nothing more than a lowly hill.  And as was the case with many other points of interest during our travels, my husband and I had the place to ourselves.
     Helgafell (Holy Mountain) was considered highly sacred in heathen times, so sacred that elderly Icelanders would seek out the hill near the time of their death. According to folklore, travellers are granted three wishes when ascending it, but only if they refrain from looking back or speaking on the way. The wishes must be of good intent, should be made while facing east, and not shared with anyone else.
     So, beginning at the marked grave of a heroine from an ancient saga, I mindfully followed the winding path to the chapel ruins atop the hill. Standing within that sacred space, sun on my face and faith in my heart, I made my three wishes, feeling deeply connected to all that had come before me. This completely unexpected, short yet powerful, meditative experience upon this humble hill, left quite an impression. And the fact that my mother's name was Helga is sure to help with the odds that my three wishes will come true.