There are yoga classes offered here at St. Alban’s several times a week, and I had occasion a few days ago, coming down a set of steps after putting something away, to look through a clear glass window on a class just finishing their practice with shavasana. Corpse Pose. Though I’ve gratefully done this pose at the end of a yoga session many times myself, I had never had an aerial view before. A large room, filled with people who were completely still. Lying flat on the floor, arms spread away from their bodies, palms facing up, heads perhaps leaning gently to one side, they looked for all the world like they were on a cross from where I stood. Corpse Pose indeed, since the cross is not a place where one thinks of relaxing.
Am I the first to invent a term for a branch of the Episcopal Church known as Hindupalian? It is closely related to that other well-known branch some call Buddhapalian. In either case, a bringing together of the inner and outer parts of ourselves. In my own yoga practice we heard the following read a few days after Easter as the class lay in shavasana, and its relationship to the Easter message I had just heard in the music and words of the previous Sunday couldn’t have been clearer:
By taking a few moments to “die on purpose” to the rush of time while you are still living, you free yourself to have time for the present. By “dying” now in this way, you actually become more alive now. This is what stopping can do. There is nothing passive about it. And when you decide to go, it’s a different kind of going because you stopped. The stopping actually makes the going more vivid, richer, more textured. It helps keep all the things we worry about and feel inadequate about in perspective. It gives us guidance. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
That idea of dying in order to live is a message we hear on Easter, and one that we are seeing everyday in the greening of our gardens after their winter deaths. Take it to heart and find time for shavasana in some form in your own life. You might call it centering prayer, or meditation, or a walk in the park, but whatever the name, it is a place where you will receive guidance.
Yes, it is true also in art: the egoic self must die in the art work in order for the art to live. In other words, everything that is of Self with all of its delusional faculties must be killed off, so that the inspiration can become material ant true through the artistic method without interference. In this way, art (also poetry) is a holy act of love.