The Unescapable Truth death, suffering and the gift of life


Photo of the Mekong River by Jessica
Photo of the Mekong River by Jessica


February 16, 2014

Jessica Magnin, founder and co-director of O2yoga, is one of GatherYoga’s newest emissaries, and today she shares her thoughts about death, suffering, and the gift of life.

It was past midnight when my father came into my room to announce the tragic news. He had just lost one of his closest friends. I was just barely twelve. It was the first time I had ever seen him really cry, and the first time I had experienced the pain of witnessing the grief of someone I loved dearly. I desperately wanted to relieve his pain, because it was his pain that caused me more suffering than the actual loss of his friend.

Death was rarely ever spoken about in my family, and we were lucky: I had only witnessed first-hand the loss of a goldfish, a few gerbils, and a fern. The unspoken truth didn’t prevent visits of endless questions about life and death in moments of silent play. Those secret thoughts were kept under my pillow for monologues as I lay myself down to sleep.

My family’s closest friend, a devout Catholic, whispered in my ear during one sleepover that my family would burn in hell because Christ was not our saviour. I never shared this with my parents in fear that this “truth” would cause them to worry and therefore suffer. I would often hold my breath in fear of facing the suffering of the ones I cared about, and even the suffering of those I had never met beyond the movie screen. My heightened sense of helplessness was so overwhelming that at times I would play the game of Maya, not fully choosing to understand the true temporal nature of life, but covering my eyes to the world, convinced that it could not see me. This was my way of dealing with that monstrous pain that I felt in my heart when I witnessed the suffering of others.


Some decades later, crouched with my knees pressed against my chest, I held on for dear life to the flimsy sides of the wooden speedboat. My nails had gone white and cramps formed in my fingers. I clenched my jaw as the driver picked up speed, navigating “blindly” through the treacherous labyrinth of hidden rocks under the current of the Mekong River. My heart skipped 100 beats as the boat skipped a wave or two. I secured my helmet for the tenth time as I saw visions of us crashing into the rock formations, the wooden boat shattering into a million pieces, and me being thrown into the air, still clutching for dear life. I glanced over at my Lao companions, some nodding off, others enjoying the buzz of adrenalin. Their serenity only amplified my exaggerated fear and my inability just to enjoy the ride. It suddenly seemed ridiculous, I seemed ridiculous! I burst into laughter. I knew that all this excessive control on my part was my only way of offering myself some solid ground of security. No matter how hard I clenched my jaw and dug my nails into the sides of the boat, there would be no guarantee. With a deep breath, I threw my arms into the air and screamed at the top of my lungs! If these were to be my last moments here on earth, then ”let go and enjoy” would be my mantra.

Somewhere on the Lao peninsula of Luang Prabang, a ceremonial celebration of endless eating, drinking, and chanting carried on day in and day out for a succession of four nights and five days. There were three spirit houses ornately decorated with flowers, a black and white photo of the deceased, rice, kip, and other symbolic offerings. Candles burned well into the night and throughout the day. There was a continuous flow of lay-people and monks passing by. As night fell, many would camp out on the cold tiled floor searching for warmth against the unusual winter chill. The music continued. Food was served. People laughed. Some played cards and many drank. The sangha, the local Buddhist community, bonded once more.

This is the Buddhist tradition. Death, as well as life, are prevalent, and all sentient beings, without any exception, will inevitably experience suffering, loss, and yes, death. Abinivesha, the root of all of our fears, causes us to desperately cling to life and deny the existential truth of our brief, transient presence here on earth. Micromanaging our illusory permanent existence and our fear of suffering just causes more internal suffering. Surrendering to Buddha’s truth, that suffering exists,does not mean that we no longer care about life or about others. Instead, suffering could become a homeopathic remedy for feeling the preciousness of life, including its joys as well as its sadnesses, and the inescapable end. We can take this ancient wisdom to heart, letting it split our hearts wide open, feeling the inner connectedness with others and life’s fragility.

Death is always lingering. In fact, we are all moving one step closer with each breath, with each passing moment. As scary as it might seem, there is no escaping. Through total acceptance, we crack open the illusory door of permanence to wide open freedom, experiencing the gift of life not in fear but in celebration! Maybe, this is the practice.




Jessica Magnin

“It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.” Krishnamurti

Everything has its place in time and in space and rules are no exception. Rules and codes of conduct keep us from falling into a state of anarchy, of total chaos. But then again, aren’t rules fabricated from the mind and perhaps rooted in fear? As much as we need rules and guidelines to live an orderly life, we might question, within reason, their potential of limiting our connection and heartfelt experience with others.

Here, in sleepy Luang Prabang a list of rules is publically displayed and posted around town. These rules are meant to be taken seriously and by all means, respected. With over 350 novices and monks living between the confines of the old town, one naturally abides by these guidelines but then, I suppose that depends upon the interpreter.

The second gong rings at 5h30 signalling the commencement of saibat, the giving of alms. In the faint darkness of the early morning, a thread of burnt orange robed novices, monks and abbots form what appears to be an endless stream of barefooted bodies with metal urns dangling from a woven strap resting on their bare shoulder.

I arrive at my habitual place, bow before my two elder Lao friends, take seat on a bamboo woven stool no more than 20 centimetres from the earth, place my flip flops neatly behind me, and tuck my sin, traditional Lao skirt, under my knees assuring that my legs are fully covered. A white “pha bien,’’or scarf, drapes over my left shoulder as I secure my hair neatly into a bun.

Behind me, the thick wall of Wat Sene separates me from 20 or so novices and monks making their final adjustments to their robes before stepping outside the confines of their monastery.  A wicker basket of freshly steamed “khao niow”, sticky rice, sits on my lap and I raise it to my forehead, bow in silence and bless these offerings with goodness and love. My dear Lao friends sit next to me. We exchange only a knowing smile of the eyes, nothing more. We allow the stillness of the early morning to bathe the present moment with sacredness.

The procession begins with a monastery’s dog or two guiding the way. Bare feet and bare heads gracefully pass at just arms reach, briefly pausing before me as I place a blessed clump of sticky rice into their urn careful not to make any physical contact, not even with their urn. One’s gaze should be soft, turned downward in humbleness and respect. These are the unspoken rules of conduct while offering.

Day after day, 94 in total, trip after trip, totally 6, rainy season or not, 3 to be exact, I am here with the same presence, the same intention and the same ritual of respect. But over time, things do shift and this is what is promised even by the teachings of Buddha himself. With habit and the passing of days, things do change, even the borders of set guidelines and rules.

The change began with the reception of an occasional yet discrete meet of the eyes, a faint humble smile, a whispered ‘’sabaidee’’ or “hello’’, a ‘’kop jai lai2”, a wrapped cookie, and even a brim-to-brim smile. Here, at this precise moment, beyond the rules of conduct, beyond what we call jit, or the mind, jai, the heart meets that of another and all differences, prejudices, conflicts, insecurities, superiority and even imposed rules drop, exposing one single thing, the art of being human and limitless potential of the heart.

“To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion. It is only in that state that one learns and observes. And for this, a great deal of awareness is required, actual awareness of what is going on inside yourself, without correcting it or telling it what it should or should not be, because the moment you correct it you have established another authority, a censor.” Krishnamurti

Rules are necessary but they can harden us. We know this yet their implementation keeps us in tact. The mind is full of ideas about right and wrong, good and bad and packaged solutions to keep things from oscillating too far. Because the mind gravitates toward set boundaries, we create more. It is our mind’s way of making sense of the unpredictability of life and keeping chaos and fear at bay. Yet, our hearts yearn for more sacred moments of expression and connection and the humbleness of being human. Incapable of truly experiencing this humanness, the mind, limited in its limitlessness can only just begin to conceptualise what this softness might look like, feel like and be like. So within the confinements of suggested guidelines and rules of conduct, remember your heart. It is within the walls of the heart that love can be felt and expressed beyond measure.

L’amour désintéressé de l’Amour de Soi

L’amour désintéressé de l’Amour de Soi

Jessica Magnin

Si tu veux éveiller toute l’humanité, commence par t’éveiller toi-même. Si tu veux éliminer la souffrance du monde, commence par éliminer tout ce qui est sombre et négatif en toi. En réalité, le plus grand don que tu dois faire est celui de ta propre transformation. Lao Tzu


Depuis mille et une nuits, le mystère de la vie et la quête de soi-même  ont préoccupé l’esprit de l’homme. De nos jours, cette préoccupation est encore une actualité et est probablement plus pertinente et plus urgente que jamais vu le mal-être général de l’humanité.

En dépit de nos découvertes dans les technologies avancées, malheureusement il reste peu de place pour l’évolution de Soi. L’estime de soi, l’amour de soi et tout ce qui tourne autour de Soi sont associés avec l’arrogance, la vanité et le narcissisme. Cela montre que notre société ne comprend pas la réelle valeur de ce pilier fondamental de qui nous sommes.

Au départ, nous sommes éduqués, entraînés et conditionnés pour chercher notre épicentre en-dehors de nous-mêmes. Nous dévorons des piles de livres, consultons des boules de cristal et nous accrochons aux paroles de ceux « qui ont vécu et savent ce que nous vivons. » De ce fait, nos amis, notre jardinier, notre professeur de yoga, voir même notre coiffeur deviennent nos gourous ! C’est comme s’ils détenaient le sésame qui allait nous révéler qui nous devrions être et ce que nous devrions faire. Aveuglés, nous leur permettons de prendre des décisions importantes à notre place, croyant naïvement qu’ils nous connaissent mieux que nous-mêmes. Ce faisant, nous leur donnons tout pouvoir et en retour nous nous privons de notre propre autonomie. Nous perdons alors confiance en notre propre capacité de discernement et l’habitude d’écouter notre voix intérieure. En fin de compte, nous prenons des décisions qui sont fondées sur l’expérience et les projections de quelqu’un d’autre et, bien trop souvent, nous dévions de notre propre chemin.

Plus ceci devient notre vasana ou habitude, plus nous enracinons cette habitude dans notre être « périphérique ». Entraînés dans une spirale descendante, le manque d’estime de soi durable qui en résulte nous rend fragiles, instables et, au final, malheureux.

Face au changement des demandes d’aujourd’hui, nous n’avons pas d’autre choix que de chercher ailleurs. Par l’éclaircissement de notre propre lucidité, nous témoignons que des années de dysfonctionnement comportemental ne sont que ceci, des dysfonctionnements.  J’ai lu une fois que «en réalité, nous ne sommes pas des êtres humains à la recherche d’expériences spirituelles mais des êtres spirituels à la recherche d’expériences humaines ».  Lorsque les expériences de la vie sont abordées avec un esprit humble mais néanmoins curieux et dénué de jugements, nous commençons à semer la graine de l’acceptation de Soi et de l’Amour de Soi.

Quand bien même l’amour universel est à l’origine de nos racines et ce dont cette planète a désespérément besoin afin de panser ses plaies, l’Amour de Soi est le point de départ de ce processus. Des moments sacrés et enveloppés de reconnaissance peuvent nous rapprocher de notre origine universelle et nous aider à nous connecter les uns avec les autres mais ceci ne suffit pas. L’Amour de Soi est la seule vérité que notre humanité doit réellement adopter Ne nous détrompons pas, il n’y a ni raccourci ni personne qui peut faire le travail pour nous.

Se diriger vers l’amour universel sans se préoccuper de l’Amour de Soi, c’est brûler les étapes, ou comme on le dit de manière très explicite en anglais c’est « comme avoir des relations sexuelles sans avoir jamais goûté à la tendresse du premier baiser ».  Dans ce cas, l’amour universel devient un prétexte pour tout remettre au lendemain et éviter d’avoir à faire l’indispensable travail sur Soi afin de cultiver un amour propre de soi.

Dans l’Anusara Yoga, l’Acro Yoga, le kirtan et d’autres disciplines visant à développer l’amour universel et qui nous laissent flotter temporairement dans un état de grâce et de béatitude, le paradoxe est que nous sommes livrés à nous-mêmes quand l’euphorie s’éteint. Si souvent, la seule chose qui reste est un sentiment de vide qui ronge les profondeurs de soi. Est-ce que ce vide serait cet appel de notre âme qui devrait être entendu, chéri et aimé ?

En puisant dans la philosophie yogique, on peut se demander si l’étude de soi, intitulé Svadyaya, le 4e Niyama du Yoga Ashtanga de Pantajali, est l’intention fondamentale de notre sadhana, notre pratique. En général, une pratique régulière améliore notre relation avec le monde extérieur mais peu de pratiques traitent sérieusement la notion d’étude de soi et donc l’importance de l’Amour de Soi.

C’est une chose d’étendre l’amour envers un voisin difficile mais c’en est une autre de l’étendre à nous-mêmes de façon inconditionnelle : en sommes-nous capables ? Sommes-nous prêts à écouter notre voix intérieure et à la rendre plus forte que celles de ceux qui préféreraient que nous vivions en suivant leurs conseils ?

Ces questions et leur étude qui suit sont la pierre angulaire du bonheur intrinsèque et de l’amour de Soi. Le gourou externe est remplacé par le gourou interne, votre guide fidèle et loyal qui a toujours attendu d’être entendu.

Self-LoveEt si les 7.091.666.596 habitants de cette planète pouvaient entendre leur voix intérieure et connaître la joie illimitée de l’Amour de Soi ?