March 29 – What Keeps Us from Shedding – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Often we give up our right to renewal to accommodate the anxiety of those around us. 

For sure, living is not easy, and living openly is both wondrous and dangerous. The fact is that shedding, no matter how useful or inevitable, always has a pain of its own. Unfortunately, there is no escaping this underside of growth. So it is not surprising that there are many feelings peculiar to human beings that prevent us from shedding what has ceased to work, including fear, pride, nostalgia, a comfort in the familiar, and a want to please those we love.  Often we give up our right to renewal to accommodate the anxiety of those around us.

The Melanesians of the New Hebrides contend that this is how we lose our immortality. Sir James Frazer has preserved their story. It seems, at first, human beings never died, but cast their skins like snakes and crabs and came out with youth renewed. But after a time, a woman, growing old, went to a stream to change her skin; according to some, she was Ul-ta-marama, Change-skin of the world. She threw her old skin in the water and observed that as it floated it caught on a stick. Then she went home, where she had left her child.  But the child refused to recognize her, crying that its mother was an old woman, not this young stranger. So to pacify the child she went after he old skin and put it on. From that time, human beings ceased to cast their skins and died.

And so when we cease to shed what’s dead in us is 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. When we maintain ways we’ve already discarded just to placate the ignorance of those we love, we lose our access to what is eternal.

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