Death comes into our lives in many different ways. People sometimes think that because we get to work with spirits, and the processes of the psychopomp, that death transforms into something easy, perhaps even palatable. We want to contain it, minimize it. Somehow we want to make it smaller than ourselves.
In truth most of what we work with as psychopomps is after-death, once the process of dying is complete. We do some work before death, but not really during the process of death itself. Those moments are still treated with the reverence they deserve. That is where the grit of life hopefully finds the grace of a life well lived.
As grand a miraculous mystery life is, so too is death mysterious and powerful. Our mechanistic world view hides this truth. We seem to think that death returns us to an inert state of nothingness, yet within death is an extraordinary transformation, greater than I think any of us can truly understand. The more I work with shamanism and death, the more my appreciation for the mystery of life and death grows.
I just learned that a great teacher of shamanism, David Corbin, has died. His death comes to me in a strange way, as if someone took a great piece of cloth and simply wiped his presence away. Of course that is not the total of his passage, that is only my vantage point from so great a distance. But I think that is what its like when a luminary is taken unexpectedly, too young. Its as if I was listening to him and mid-sentence he simply disappeared.
|Ouroboros artist unknown|
I’ve really just started teaching, joining David and his wife Nan in a circle they’ve been in for many decades. I can claim no personal connection to either of them, though I admire both of them greatly. But there are some circles you sit in that bring with them a sense of kinship through shared purpose. Those circles often connect our spirits with a special intensity born of our passion to do good works in the world. I remember looking around our circle amazed that I got to sit with such wonderful teachers, and amazed even further by the feeling that maybe I belong there.
I’d actually been thinking about that circle quite a bit lately, what some of the qualities were that connected all the teachers there. The most striking to me was the feeling that every person in that room was an intensely curious explorer. Had we been born in another time we’d be exploring the ocean or the unknown regions of distant lands. We’d do it if we were paid or not, we’d likely do it if we were barely able to walk. These people were teachers because they craved understanding and wisdom. David, I understand, was one of the first to join that circle so long ago, I’m sure he bares great responsibility in the strength of that circle and the quality of work that flows from it.
I know of course, this circle does not end. There have been teachers who work tirelessly to share genuinely liberating practices for millenia, and there will be such teachers for as long as there are human beings. We are spirit, we are a river, we do not stop, we only move deeper. Nor do I think David’s exploration has ended, just my ability to easily witness it.
Of course nothing can truly be wiped away, but I want to honor the palpable feeling of his loss. The voice of a teacher has been silenced in this world. Another will take his place, they will be unique, passionate, but they will not be David. Its telling to me that knowing him as little as I do, the silence left by him is to me, enormous.
Much love to all of those touched by his loss, most of all of course, Nan.