Sunday, January 27, 2013
A Time to Die
Nature tells every living thing when it’s time to die. And that length of time, science now notes, is predetermined to a specific formula that crosses all species, from mayflies to giant sequoias.
“It tells animals for example, that there's a universal limit to life, that though they come in different sizes, they have roughly a billion and a half heart beats; elephant hearts beat slowly, hummingbird hearts beat fast, but when your count is up, you are over,” notes NPR science writer, Robert Krulwich.
Yoga has, for millennia, espoused the same wisdom. Yoga says yes; we all have a predetermined limitation on our lifespans. This predetermined length of life, according to yoga, is a reflection of each individual’s dharma and karma. Your dharma is your truth- why you are here. Your karma is the fruit of your actions, both from past lives and what you are accruing now. Yoga says we are each given a certain number of breaths or “pulses” to live out our dharma, or soul’s purpose, and to clean up our karmic bank accounts, so we are free. When your breaths (roughly one and a half billion) are “used up,” your life is over, whether you have liberated your soul or not.
However, yoga gives us a brilliant silver lining to the rule of death’s timing: Unlike the mayfly or the redwood, we can self-determine our respiration patterning. We have the ability to slow our breaths down or speed them up, at will. We are the only creature that can take the allotted number of breaths that we were assigned at birth, and slow them down, giving us “more time” in which to complete our dharmic purpose.
I invite you now to sit quietly, slow your breathing simply by allowing, watching it impassively for a few minutes. Take a sweet moment to savor deeply this moment. This one moment is the gift of life. Through the stillness see more clearly your gift to the world, pulsing out on the rhythm of your own oceanic breath.
See the beautiful online article and photos from Robert Krulwich at When its Time to Die.