Death Practice Musings
various ways i'm talking about death practice plus Q & A
i thought i’d compile some of my shorter writings on death practice in light of my limited energy being focused in this direction. some of these appeared on facebook, some just from my personal writing & journaling. it’s a mix of:
reflecting on current events through the lens of death practice coupled with the fact i’m going to be opening this 13 month container www.animistarts.art/the-death-practice-group
more generalized death practice thoughts from my own history of illness and karmic fate, growing up in (white-ified) america as a mixed, queer. nonbinary person who was indoctrinated into a terrifying worldview that caused me to develop auto-immune conditions, etc.
At the end, you will see some general Q & A I’ve written to try and help people understand where i’m coming from. You can feel free to add new questions in the comments section, though with the caveat that I will engage with those as i see fit.
onward, inward, outward, backward…
from may 22
most of what i want to communicate now only really functions inside a ritual container of death practice. for some people, they will have reactions to that because of scarcity -- of time, energy, money or some mixture.
for me, the fracturing and fragmenting of ppls attention, mixed with a totally disenfranchised and decontextualized identity narrative is exactly the psyop of western, modern culture... designed to create a serf caste of workers.
for example, we can somehow know more about the ukraine crisis than people in our neighborhood. this is what i mean by decontextualized.
and we can somehow have an idea of ourself as an individual with free will who is destined to fulfill their desires. a bullshit lie if ever there was one, but then people base their identity on that. disenfranchised from their own actual reality.
so, becoming more niche and less pliable is actually better for attention to what reality actually is and who we actually are, but it is at odds with the mememe customer is always right fantasy of western capitalism.
who supports us? who is really there? this will come out in the laundry as they say. and its not shameful, but it is honest. not everyone who says they want to be there can actually be there. we are not demigods or superheroes. come back to earth, come back to real practice.
thats what death practice is to me.
from may 26
a lot of people condemn those who enact psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies instead of actually understanding, empathizing and accessing the situations that would nudge certain people towards those behaviors (and the systems that make it easier for the behaviors to be enacted). there is a worldview that is beyond blaming, beyond perpetrator-victim binaries. but will westerners actually embrace that worldview? it remains to be seen. the default western worldview seems to be a betrayal-denial-blame self centered helplessness.
i know that we are all on the verge of death all the time. i used to be upset at that, i drowned when i was 3 and left "my body". i was indoctrinated with very naive idealism. i was born with a fate that "heard voices" and felt the demonic pressures of certain ancestral karmas of our species. a gift that becomes a curse and must be alchemized back into a gift.
it feels weird to keep doing capitalism at times like this, but i do need to pay my rent and medical bills. so i dreamed up a container (before the latest tragedy du jour happened). it wont be for everyone.
from may 29
at the "end of the day", meaning both the end of this life i’m living and entering into sleep, my sickness both does and does not define my behaviors, options, capacity... the thing we call self or personality. what does this mean really?
the west has no frameworks to comprehend this fated liberation, this interdependent impermanence.
the west can only comprehend strength over, the ableist threat fetish that god, the universe, ancestors, Love, etc can only be won, only earned. that the great meaning of life is for those who are worthy of it, the survivorship bias worldview that predicates the barbarism and easy cop outs of the western narrative.
this means that all bodies, minds and expressions of those bodies, minds that do not operate or exist within this limited definition are deemed unworthy of the fruits of living, of society.
however nature itself doesn’t make mistakes because the game it is playing has a completely different process and view than the western cosmology.
therefore, to become whole, we all must retain our dignity in the face of capitalist oppression, the ableist slave story that the west forces on all bodies it witnesses as worthy and non worthy, as human and inhuman.
as i continue to live into my dying, i dissolve into the felt relationality of my history, ancestry, sickness, fate and circumstance, knowing it is an impermanent yet expressive dream, expressing itself in rhythms i may not even be able to perceive in this state, in this form, in this conception of a self.
the liberation is janus faced. always already inherent, and always potentially possible in more adaptive and interdependent appearances. the former is the liberation revealed and remembered by nondual practice. the latter is the liberation envisioned and understood by the marginalized and oppressed.
there are two liberations, yet they co-sign each other. the former is the one we always can practice, while the latter is the one that always exists in a potential future. they are both necessary. the former is the one we do not have to wait for.
this is death practice, too. liberation as the unraveling of linear time and narrative conception. liberation as death itself, an unending continuity of impermanent forms and appearances inseparable yet appearing as separate.
#criptime #islandtime #nondualtime #liberationasdeath #deathastruemirror
from june 3
the death practice group is where we will practice perceiving and impermanence-as-base, which will as a side effect eviscerate the western/white/dualistic/judeo-protestant/colonial/materialist/cartesian worldview which is exhausting your energy and preventing your ecological relating (the hot neo lib buzzword du jour).
meets monthly, join anytime, youre responsible for your own conduct and consequences. recordings available after each live gathering.
from june 4
part of me used to think that if i just translated everything i was meaning in a thousand different ways, then it would be palatable to more and more people who would benefit from the application of the behaviors.
and i did personally benefit from stretching myself in that way, and i found a lot of adjacent worldviews and methodologies that partially resonated. but the longer i went on, the more i was spending my limited energy trying to convince people of a worldview they actually were in conflict with. i got fed up. im an angry, impatient person. i spent decades trying to clear the cobwebs from my own nervous system and mind, so i figured other people also wanted to do that too. i was wrong.
it became easier to just stop morphing myself into shapes that other worldviews found “acceptable”. and just focus on the worldview and the communication of that worldview that worked for me, for my direct relationships, for my body, my chronic illness, my basic sanity. if i was secretly trying to “get one over” then this path would have led me to even more delusional concepts and behaviors.
but this path i’m on is dedicated to a kind of brutal honesty that is inherently playful and impermanent. it only seems like it’s about “healing” from a certain position. (spoiler alert - it’s not not about healing, but that word is highly salvational in the western context)
so i just keep on the path, and i go through all these gates, all these rooms where worldviews seem to solidify and stop as an ultimate worldview. and i keep going through. what i realized eventually was that many people are seriously afraid of the kind of path i’m talking about. they are at a place in their lives where they want power, status, pleasure, justice or insert whatever word here as a kind of universal solvent that will save them, that will help them evade some kind of ghost in their rearview mirror. and it creates the violent society we all live in. but that violence too will eventually die, even if that means our entire species has to go extinct in order for impermanence to be revealed to us as the baseline.
personally, what ‘ancestral healing’ is for me is to go beyond all hardened grudges & preferences that have been inherited down the line. and for me, the line goes all the way back through to the original humans and proto-humans who experimented with what we now call cannibalism, incest, rape, murder, blood sacrifice, etc as possible survival strategies. empathizing* (with gratitude and skeptical reluctance) with my deep ancestors’ experiments — their fears, pains and hungers — allows me to hold all of our modern concepts, ideals and beliefs in a more accurate context, so i don’t get stuck in any of them (or their supposed opposite) and become ghostly in my pursuit of xyz salvation.
*Some of this empathy might arise naturally from my mixed heritage (my father was born on Puerto Rico/Boriken and likely his mother was part African heritage & Taino Indigenous via enslaved West Africans and partially-genocided Taino). But in studying anthropology, evolutionary biology and decolonial histories, we can safely assume that all humans of every skin color emerged from the same set of deep-time ancestors, all of whom had dark or ‘black’ melanated skin and originated in what we now call Africa.
Through various trance practices and plant medicina ceremonia, I was contacted by various ancestors, both more obviously Taino-Mayan and African, and even much much older than those designations, and received physiological memories/sensations/experiences from those beings/ancestors. These contacts took place over a multi-year period and involved a lot of integration and stabilization, which still continues as integration is not a static event.
Death Practice allows me to “snap out of it” when i naturally fall into a fantasy of ‘how things are’ and ‘how things should be’. It re-orients me to the only real guaranteed relationship I actually have, which is that at some point, the event called Death/Dying will overtake this form i appear to be, and that this overtaking is actually happening in ‘micro-doses’ all the time.
It’s immediate and post or non-conceptual. Even as my “mind” naturally generates illusory perceptions, I can entertain them as gateways back towards the open space that birthed them, which is Death. These infinitely shapeshifting dreams are like steam rising from evaporating dew. Many nights I find myself “trapped” in these dreams, either as a character or as a disembodied witness (much like being forced to watch a movie). My fate and chronic illness/exhaustion means that I am not yet consistently able to become lucid inside the dream and shape it agentially. Though in past times this has happened and i have experienced the feeling of liberation that comes with that event. So instead i know that each dream that i am trapped in eventually dissolves and i return to this incarnation, yet another dream experience.
Part of dying without a ledger, without grudges, means that i will eventually recognize that each dream is an opportunity to practice, even as some part of my soul/mind is oppressed by inherited factors and appearances. That eventually that which believes in oppression itself will evaporate.
And yet, in this waking incarnation, i bolster my capacity to be generous in the face of violence and suffering, without believing that those “things” are permanent or “real” in an objective sense.
#nondual #animism #disabilityjustice #harmreduction #dreamyoga #deathpractice #queerecology #anticult #antiracist #antiableist #anticapitalist #nonbinary #theblues
is Death Practice work stabilizing or destabilizing (and is one better and one worse)?
it’s both really, it’s an adaptogenic practice that is nondual, which means that it holds dualism inside of it without reducing itself to an either/or binary.
The complexity of such a question reveals how little the western worldview can apprehend, how scarce of a worldview it is.
The way that i host Death Practice differs from how others host it. So all i can say is that Death Practice is aligning with and encountering a fully agential current called Death, and consciously contacting it. This is the on-purpose part of practicing. At the beginning, this on-purpose-ness will be intermittent like a flickering candle flame. The more one chooses to attend to to it, the more stable the practice will become, the more it will permeate and “take over” the default worldview of the practitioner. But this takeover is not a domination event like colonization, but an internal acceptance, a dissolving into, a receptivity to the more stable current. It is relieving rather than resistant. (We are not doing Death Practice like an mma fighter psyching themselves up for a match, though there will be moments of that kind of behavior.) This more-stable-ness will co-emerge alongside further destabilization of prior stabilities. i.e. your default priorities begin to shift.
So the process is simultaneously stabilizing and destabilizing, in different vectors.
However, one must at the start focus heavily on the stabilizing view and methods until they become second nature. In western parlance, this would mean something like ‘integration’ practices, though in this worldview we would speak of the “3rd eye” attributes of (self)reflection, natural reluctance and basic sanity. The Moon is one body in nature that naturally models this ‘eye’ or way-of-perceiving. It is not the same as the Hindu term “third eye” located in the pineal gland. The Mountain and The WorldTree are other models for this kind of stabilizing. There are many models in nature.
Once stabilizing can be done on command at any time in any situation, then one can further explore Death Practice. But do not be turned off if this stabilizing process takes a few years to become second nature. You can still do various practices to explore while maintaining awareness that you are biasing stability.
In the Dzogchen meditation called Shamatha, the triple attributes to focus on are Relaxation first, then Stability and finally Vividness or Clarity. One can liken this to lying down in shavasana, corpse pose, and allowing deep relaxed breathing to be the main event, and not going to sleep. So you are maintaining an alert, vivid awareness (not sleeping) while allowing the body to fully relax and breathe as if a corpse. You can do this for periods of time, 12 minutes, 24 minutes, up to many hours depending the state of your body. The goal in this practice would be to fully experience what real relaxed breathing is without “doing” and without sleeping or blacking out.
Is this shamanism/tantra/witchcraft/alchemy/ancestral healing/etc?
So, in order to answer that question we would need to deconstruct and re-contextualize all of these buzzwords that have been appropriated to mean dozens of things. Which in itself would take multiple hours of oral dialogue.
What I can say, from my years of study, practice and just my own human experience is that humans are very good at developing coping strategies for stress, and then accruing a kind of social status or cultlike culture around said coping strategies. Daoism, Dzogchen, Witchcraft etc are no different. We cannot judge a book by its cover, nor an ecosystem by the name we call it. We still live in a social structure of predatory domination for survival, based in humans threatening other humans and other non-humans. This is the reality in this level of the dream we call reality, planet Earth, 2022 AD.
We would have to examine thoroughly our motivations in order to determine what is actually going on with using certain words to mean certain things. For instance, no one i know who calls themselves a shaman can actually make it rain. Claiming to do Soul Retrieval is equally dubious, because we don’t know what is really going on. Maybe the person who needs Soul Retrieval just needs someone to care about them in a good way, and then their ‘soul’ or ‘shen’ just ‘comes back’ on its own accord because the conditions are good, like a bird returning to its nest after a storm has prevented its return. When doing ‘tantric sex magic’ and ‘raising kundalini’ are we doing it because we crave stimulation and we hold a grudge against ‘feeling bored’? Are we actually just in an addictive phase and calling it spirituality?
In ancient times, a shaman was called and forced in some way to do the community job, and that job had very real consequences for failure, like exile or death. If you can’t make the rains come, what good are you? And many shamans practiced a kind of dualistic animism, what i call ‘war shamanism’. Their power was limited to a very specific range of land, where their helping spirits lived. They were engaged in a kind of ‘externalized projection’ reality, where anything that happened happened as a result of some external entity or force doing it to them, the tribe, etc. In this kind of worldview, there was not really internal self reflection, which is partially what made nondual traditions and Buddhism so radical!
I’m not saying any of this is wrong, just incomplete, often mis-interpreted and ill-fitting for our modern predicament. We have enough movies and stories about good & evil dualism, polarity, domination and projection. It doesn’t quite relieve our systems from our poor conduct. Stupid behaviors, while well-meaning, seeking ‘healing’ or protection, called magick, etc are still creating harm based in ignorance and Wrong View.
In addition, I am not a doctor or a lineage holder, not ordained or otherwise certified. If you need to see a doctor because of gut dysbiosis or chronic illness, you should absolutely do that. I see a functional Naturopath monthly. But i am not trying to save myself or cure myself in some ableist, eugenics way, just mitigate symptoms and do harm reduction. I do not think of healing in the same ways i did 15 years ago, after living with various health issues for this time. There is a strange gratitude that developed for the hardships that i wouldn’t have chosen consciously, that sober and mature me into a more weak and unexceptional person.
I offer Death Practice as a meta-worldview that can really get to the root of our experiences and mutate the way we relate on a pervasive level. Death Practice as i present it, exists within a large ecosystem of human narratives and strategies, not fully adhering to any of them, but neither denying them all as completely invalid either.