The Gift of Shedding
From the beginning, the key to renewal has been the casting off of old skin.
It is interesting that the earliest peoples believed in something that we, in our modern hive of manufacturing, have forgotten — that immortality is attainable by shedding. The Dusuns of North Borneo have believed for centuries that when God finished creating the world, He announced that “Whoever is able to cast off his skin shall not die.”
But what does this mean? Not that we can live forever, but that the way to stay closest to the pulse of life, the way to stay in the presence of that divine reality which informs everything is to be willing to change. Still, change what? To change whatever has ceased to function within us. To shed whatever we are carrying that is no longer alive. To cast off our dead skin because dead skin can’t feel. Dead eyes can’t see. Dead ears can’t hear. And without feeling, there is no chance of wholeness, and wholeness remains our best chance to survive the pain of breaking.
Of course, for human beings, dead skin takes many forms, the most significant of which remain intangible but suffocating, such as a dead way of thinking, a dead way of seeing, a dead way of relating, a dead way of believing, or a dead way of experiencing.
In essence, shedding opens us to self-transformation. Paradoxically, those of us who refuse such renewal will, sooner or later, be forced to undergo transformation anyway as a result of being broken or eroded by the world. Very often both occur at the same time: that is, we shed from within while being eroded from without.
* Center yourself and meditate on what you are carrying that is dead skin for you.
*Breathe cleanly and deeply and ask yourself, What are you being called to shed, to put to rest, in order to gain greater access to the hidden wholeness of life.
What Keeps Us from Shedding
Often we give up our right to renewal to accommodate the anxiety of those around us.
For sure, living is not easy, and living openly is both wondrous and dangerous. The fact is that shedding, no matter how useful or inevitable, always has a pain of its own. Unfortunately, there is no escaping this underside of growth. So it is not surprising that there are many feelings peculiar to human beings that prevent us from shedding what has ceased to work, including fear, pride, nostalgia, a comfort in the familiar, and a want to please those we love. Often we give up our right to renewal to accommodate the anxiety of those around us.
The Melanesians of the New Hebrides content that this is how we lost our immortality. Sir James Frazer has preserved their story. I seems, at first, human beings never died, but cast their skins like snakes and crabs and came out with youth renewed. But, after a time, a woman, growing old, went to a stream to change her skin; according to some, she was Ul-ta-marama, Change-skin of the world. She threw her old skin in the water and observed that as it floated it caught on a stick. Then she went home, where she had left her child. But the child refused to recognize her, crying that its mother was an old woman, not this young stranger. So to pacify the child she went after her old skin and put it on. From that time, human beings ceased to cast their skins and died.
And so, when we cease to shed what’s dead in us in order to soothe the fear of others, we remain partial. When we cease to surface our most sensitive skin simply to avoid conflict with others, we remove ourselves from all that is true. When we maintain ways we’ve already discarded just to placate the ignorance of those we love, we lose our access to what is eternal.
*Sit quietly and ask yourself, What voices are asking you to keep your old skin and not to change?
*Center yourself and ask, What is the cost to you for not renewing your connection with all that is eternal?
Mark Nepo…The Book of Awakening Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have