Shedding: An Act of Immortality


Spring knows many faces but regardless, it is renewal, a restoring to existence. Present moment awareness is like spring in that each moment is new, unattached to any outcome, full of the breath of infinite possibilities.

Each moment sheds itself for the next, an ongoing renewal of life, our own cycle of the seasons, our own glimpse into immortality, if we are willing to embrace the unknown and let go of the known.

Shedding is a term I learned from Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening; he is a great teller of stories for he knows their power. One of the early stories of humans shedding their skin comes from the North Borneo Dusuns who believe when “God finished creating the world, He announced that ‘Whoever is able to cast off his skin shall not die’” (Nepo).

Stories of immortality evolve around the inevitable change involved in choice.

The Melanesians of the New Hebrides offer a story of such a choice (Nepo). In the beginning, humans shed their aged skins for the new skin of youth, as is the way of immortality.

One day, as an old woman cast her skin into the river, she noticed that it caught on a branch downstream. The woman returned to her home in her new skin. Her child, however, wailed inconsolably for the mother’s old, familiar skin. The woman returned to the river to retrieve her skin and live in it, as is the way of mortality.

In the twenty-first century, we know our physical bodies undergo a lifetime of transformation, a sloughing of old cells for new, whether we are spiritual beings having a human experience or mere mortals seeking a spiritual experience.

Perhaps present moment awareness mirrors our ongoing physical shedding of our cells. Transformation, it seems, will out.
Waverly Larch Spring 0313
“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” (Nepo).

Like immortality, transformation at any level exacts a choice for we are shedding the skin that has been familiar to ourselves as well as to the world. Often, the outer world reacts immediately to the loss of what was, rather than  responding to the new that is now.

There is no way that we ever prepare ourselves or anyone else for the outcome of shedding a worn skin for one that is new, unknown, and uncertain. Yet, if we do not shed what is no longer us, we lose “access to what is eternal” (Nepo). It is a choice, an immortal one, but a choice.

Shedding moment after moment to access the ever-expanding field of possibilities—the unknown—is a renewal the outer skin knows only from the inside out, as is the way of immortality.

26 thoughts on “Shedding: An Act of Immortality

  1. Very nice, and it seems an interesting choice to talk about shedding in spring. Shedding (of leaves) being a fall event, but other forms of shedding that are less obvious to human beings occur in spring (molting, the shedding of pupae, etc).
    I have a poem that speaks to this experience, though from a different viewpoint than you’ve beautifully posted here. Maybe I can locate it when I get home & post it for you.


    1. Oh, I hope you locate the poem, and I will link it, as I truly admire your work, Ann. Since reading Nepo, I now associate shedding with spring and new life and fall shedding as preparation for spring. Not sure I realized that until now. Thanks, Ann!


  2. Yes, the world does erode us–which may be like smudging the edges of a chalk drawing. The boundary between our selves and everything else may be simply arbitrary; why shouldn’t the friction of daily life wear that demarcation line away, and how can that be anything but good?


  3. Hi Karen, this is a very poignant post for me as I feel as I am in the act of shredding the old skin of who I was. There is always some regret in leaving the past behind as we can see what we have left behind; but not what is waiting for us. I feel that is when we have to find the courage to walk ahead with faith.


    1. Hi, Athena!
      As you say, shedding requires courage for it requires that we embrace uncertainty, indeed open ourselves into what we do not know. What trust that requires, as you say. You know this more than most, Athena.


  4. Karen,
    We are soul siblings. My memoir that I have been writing for the last year is titled Shedding Skin: My Life Among Everyday Gurus. I was also thinking of taking the title for my work of fiction. It is such a powerful metaphor. I never thought about the immortality aspects of it. I got the idea from someone who told me that since I was born in the Year of the Snake, I need to shed my skin every so often or I will die. Shedding skin meant huge life changes–what you would call transformations. I hope some day to share the manuscript with you and get your insightful opinion. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo


    1. Love the title for your memoir, Kozo, and as you say, we are soul siblings (I like that!). Whenever I see a snake–and where I live, that is not rare–I am reminded of transformation taking place or about to take place, yet another perspective on the present. Nature is always instructing, if we will show up. Shedding takes courage, and you, my friend, are a courageous one. I am not surprised that you are born in the Year of the Snake. Always appreciate your mindful comments.


    1. Hi, Diana!
      I’d been thinking about this shedding post for awhile–the Nepo passages are favorites–only later did I recognize that it has an Easter flavor. Interesting how that happens. In my third act, I am an optimist, having shed my skins of skeptic and cynic.Optimism requires so much more of me. Here’s to your Spring emerging soon for it makes such a difference.


  5. Beautiful and thoughtful, as always. I have shed my outer skin more than once. Sometimes it is painful for those around me but shedding is necessary to be oneself, immortal or not. Great post.


    1. Thanks so much, Lynette. Glad you enjoyed the post. I remain convinced that shedding ultimately benefits everyone for when we are ourselves, we are our best, just as you say.


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