Shedding: An Act of Immortality

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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.
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“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.