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.


Change is on the horizon, as always, but at times, it seems palpable even audible. Change is on the horizon rumbles from my gut and I know its knell will summon until I shed my skin. Even my morning meditation  from Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening is entitled “Shedding”:

“…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” (Nepo).

Cooper on a bye-bye

I smile as I read “…such renewal will, sooner or later, [force us] to undergo transformation anyway” (Nepo).

I am so grateful for metaphor, for synchronicity yet still I squirm as my mind nudges close to the word surrender, never an easy concept for me. However, I am able to admit that less and less, control seems necessary so I settle in with regenerate and rebirth. I breathe.

In this way, we begin our day, and Cooper is ready for “bye-bye in the car.”

My meditation stays with me as I drive us to a new park, one we had “scouted” last winter. Quiet pond with a bridge, Ponderosa pines, live oaks, dogwood– each so grand in its own being– together they are a choir  for all seasons.

We are excited to explore, for the park and day are fresh with promise, with scents for both of us. Cooper sets his snout to tracking scent after scent as I make sure scent is all he finds. Cooper keeps me present, as do most beagles, I suspect.

Together, we stare at a lumbering turtle making its way from the pond, lifting one foot and then another, its shell shifting with each step, adjusting as necessary, purpose in motion, a rhythm steady and sure.

Cooper takes us here and there until he tires, which he does rather quickly these days so he takes us to a bench, not uncommon for him. Early on in our relationship, he indicated a fondness for benches, and while he no longer jumps up to sit beside me or in my lap, he is content to rest against my foot, making sure I stay.

I sit back and my morning meditation of shedding and renewal returns amidst this spring splendor. Everywhere, everything is coming to life as Cooper snores.

Just beyond us, there is a large black and yellow garter snake making its way away–sleek and sure—a symbol of eternity, of transformation and healing that so freely sheds its skin for life’s renewal, inviting the risk that comes with wearing a new skin.

There is a lifetime in this moment, as always.

ROW80 Wednesday Summary 

Sometimes, all I have to do is  consider the word goal and my entire being rises up in rebellion. My ego tells me—pretty much nonstop– goals are contradictory to the Tao and being, all nonsense but then what else is the ego?

April 4, 2012 is the start date for my second round of ROW80 goals, and they are located on a separate page that you may view here. In many ways, these goals are a new skin for me.