Elif Shafak’s novel 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World begins with The End.
Leila, the main character, is dead.
For 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her body is physically dead, Leila’s mind is still active. Shafak’s novel follows this mind activity. Though Leila was murdered in Istanbul, and her body is thrown in a dumpster, her mind’s activity guides a reader to witness a life injured by sexual abuse but redeemed by friendship; a reader reflects and feels awe what this life cut short by violent death can inspire in Leila’s friends, the sacrifices they make for her that benefit Leila beyond the grave.
What insights does Tequila Leila’s life and death offer a yogi?
Can reading this novel while practicing “Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels Of Ether” (see below) refine the chitta (witnessing awareness)? Can this practice under this decade’s last full moon bring increased receptivity and sensitivity in the yogi? Can it bring honor to the dead? Can the practice of being aware of my own being while reading this novel elevate this consciousness in this living process here and now?
No doubt this novel helps inspire a reader’s compassion for Leila. What does that compassion feel like in my body while I read? When do I cry for her? When do I laugh with her? And I assume that any reader, not just a yogi, will feel the burning flame of inner anger when Leila’s father lies to her and when her uncle sexually abuses her. What discomfort am I feeling in my own body when imagining her body brutally murdered and abandoned in the trash? My hip hurts. My neck hurts. The kundalini energy in my spine has gone back to sleep for now. How is the Adi Shakti within me ever going to rise again while I am reading and witnessing yet another incident of the world’s cruel treatment of a beautiful woman?
This blog post explores a way to give full expression to compassion toward Tequila Leila and her friends in this novel. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to dedicate a meditation to these characters and also write about my respect for their souls. Though these characters are fictional creations of the author, their struggles are true to many real life people in the world today. This post attempts to broadcast an intention: Extend immense compassion, honor, and respect to real life people with the same struggles as Tequila Leila and her friends. Perhaps this creates a shelter, of sorts, for “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live” (Irish blessing).
Shafak’s novel is a reflection on a life in the context of the body’s death process. This is intriguing to read as a yogi because yogic teachings on death encourage a yoga practitioner to live every moment in heightened awareness so as to bring heightened awareness to the moments of death.
Yogis mostly choose when to discard the body, and do so in awareness. This is not suicide or euthanasia, but Maha Samadhi. A yogi knows how to die sitting in meditation with a smile on her face. She chooses to do this when life force is running out but before the body gets so radically feeble that it would need drugs to avoid pain. She chooses her time before the mind grows so radically demented that it cannot function in meditation. A yogi knows when and how to exit gracefully. Discard the body like discarding clothing.
Preparing for a conscious death involves being totally aware in every moment in life. So, how shall we be in awareness when reading about Tequila Leila’s life and death? Being in awareness as a reader of a novel means being aware of the frequencies the story is resonating into the layers of the subconscious mind. If a reader slowly witnesses the impact this story is having upon her own psyche, she can consciously work with these energies to transform the inner “trauma into dharma.” The way to witness this process is meditation. When a story flows through a yogi’s psyche, she can consciously summon the frequencies of compassion and healing to meet the story as its impact echoes throughout the universe within her. So regardless of how my kundalini is reacting to this story, I know I can get Her to RISE again!
When She rises, she is bringing Leila with her! Oh, yogi! Meditate!
According to yogic wisdom, after death, the mind does continue its activity. Thoughts that are projected from any living person continue to ripple out in the subtle realm for at least three-day’s time. For Elif Shafak’s purposes with this particular novel, the 10 minute and 38 seconds time frame comes from scientific observations that have been able to record actual physical brain activity after a person is pronounced clinically dead. Scientists have observed that the brain can remain active for up to 10 minutes and 38 seconds after the body dies.
Yogis say the death process for the body takes up to twenty two minutes for ALL the pulses in the physical body and then subtle body to slow down and stop. The last pulse to stop in the subtle body — always whispering more quietly than the pulse of the physical heartbeat — is the pulse at the center of the shushmani channel, the pulse within the center of the Sukhmani Nadi. But who really knows, maybe the time it takes for any one being to stop pulsing is actually quite different for everyone and every situation. But for our purposes here and now, let’s say that if during her lifetime a yogi cultivates awareness and even a loving relationship between her consciousness and the pulse at the center of her spine, she is likely to be loving and aware at the time of her death. She will be aware of how to launch her soul’s energy up into the Sukhmani Nadi and straight through the Brahmarandara at the time of death. If that’s so important…
Let’s wonder for a moment: if you know you have a choice, would you choose to discard your body while you are still able to be aware of the extremely subtle activity within the shushmana? Or, would you live on through months or years of pain, suffering, and illness just to stay alive in this world one more day, month, or year? But these questions are beyond the scope of this blog post … it’s okay to drift beyond scope, but let’s try to return to Leila.
Well the only point in understanding here that for a yogi, discarding the body in a seated position helps create the link between the consciousness, the spine, and the heavens. Then go! Wahe Guru! This is the frame of reference from which I am reading this novel and meditating on behalf of its characters.
Of course, we know discarding the body while seated in meditation is not a choice that Tequila Leila has in the novel; that missed opportunity for Leila makes her story that much sadder for my own yogi reader’s awareness.
Leila was brutally murdered. What about the situation of murder, yogi?
So what kind of impact does witnessing her situation have upon this yogi’s psyche? What can a yogi do to extend some compassionate energy into the real-life Tequila Leilas out there?
Suppose a yogi practices a particular meditation that is helpful for the afterlife and dedicates such a practice to the characters in this novel; can such a seemingly insignificant gesture help anyone cope, bring healing, and restore balance to the universe?
Can such a practice help the collective psyche to bring more awareness to the death process? How can the devotion of Leila’s friends bring more awareness to the grieving process? Is it possible for the events in a novel to increase a reader’s compassion for the afterlife process for all people, whether they be our dearly beloved, friends, acquaintance, celebrities, singers, strangers, and even those judged as companionless outcasts?
Let’s begin to lovingly approach these questions with something concrete: time.
10 minutes and 38 seconds is a limit. Of course the novel explores beyond these minutes. As expansive beings, we cannot help but exceed the limits. That’s good news.
In yogic meditation, we often sit for a set amount of time. Minutes of meditation have different significance. The amount of time spent sitting in meditation effects the body in different ways. 3 minutes impacts the blood and circulation. 11 minutes has an impact on the pituitary gland and the nerves. Meditating for 22 minutes brings the positive mind, negative mind, and neutral mind into balance. 31 minutes resets the whole mind and brings 31 elements and aura into balance. 62 minutes integrates the “shadow mind” and the positive projection. 2 ½ hours completes a cycle of prana (inward flow of life force energy) and apana (outward flow of life force energy); clear states reached here will stick throughout the cycle of the day and make a lasting imprint on the level of the subconscious mind.
So a novel exploring the mind, body, and soul in the minutes after death appeals to this yogi. A dead being’s subtle energy is still making an imprint in the living realm; meanwhile it’s dimensions are defused and also passing to the Hereafter, moving beyond.
Here is a meditation that was taught by Yogi Bhajan that I practiced during and after reading Elif Shafak’s novel. I dedicated this practice to Tequila Leila and her friends in this novel and to the real-life versions of these characters.
The meditation is called
“Meditation to Go Through Death into the Higher Levels of Ether.”
Sit with a tall spine, in a chair with feet on the floor or sit on the floor with the legs crossed. Place hands in “Prayer Mudra” (both palms pressed together). Place the mudra at the heart center and turn the fingers so they point forward straight out from the heart. The thumbs will be pointing straight up to the sky; now, separate the thumbs — they are like the horns of a ram — point slightly outwards. The elbows are tucked into the sides. Eyes are closed but slightly open with the eyeballs focused at the tip on the nose.
Deeply inhale. While the breath is going out, chant aloud this mantra:
Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Har.( Pronounced Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hud ).
Deeply inhale again. Again, chant the mantra while the breath is exhaled. Continue this pattern for 31 minutes.
Yogi Bhajan said that this meditation is a technical, subtle, and powerful way to build your circumvent field. He said, “It’s a circumvent meditation that takes care of your problems in the hereafter.” The circumvent field is the electromagnetic field that surrounds the body. It’s important to note that yogis feel into realms of mind, body, soul (also the titles of the three parts of Shafak’s novel) but also emotion, and most importantly ENERGY. There is a subtle energy body that journeys with us through the death process, too. Meditation in every moment in life helps.
In the novel, when Tequila Leila is buried in the Cemetery of the Companionless, her five closest friends agree that this is an injustice, so they take unexpected actions to right this wrong. Their collective effort is humorous, bold, and frightening; and while their actions give hope, they also provide a fresh vision for how we might “rethink everything we do and the way we are doing it” when it comes to taking care of our dead. This book helps us to feel called upon to rethink the way we do death and grieving and burial ceremonies. And if we can “go through death into the higher levels of ether,” how can our entrance into the higher levels of ether benefit those we leave behind in the living realm?
It is no coincidence that yogis talk about the realm of Blue Ethers and Leila merges with a Blue Betta Fish in the hereafter. The color blue is consistent with both versions of the hereafter experience.
So over the days that I was reading 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, I was also practicing “Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels of Ethers” for 31 minutes. This novel and meditation go well together! Add to that, the 40 seconds of silence when the meditation ends. Those 40 seconds are most important of all. The silence — empowered by meditative creative intention — are the 40 seconds of regeneration of the yogi’s inner cosmos. That’s why the title of this blog post is 31 minutes and 40 seconds under this cold moon.
And the Cold Moon is this last full moon of this decade. My full moon ritual is writing about this book.
The cold moon gifts us the energy of Long Nights. Additionally, the most active meteor shower, the Geminids Meteor Shower occurs during this last full moon of 2019. The moon is full at precisely 12:12 AM EST on 12/12. Some say this full moon brings emotional insight and hope. Well, then, Let’s huddle in close and cry for Leila and hope we learn and improve from having known her!
The full moon is a time to feel complete. This year is complete. I am complete. This project is complete. The full moon is also always a good time to release what no longer serves.
Collectively, may the cruel world release the following bad habits that do not serve: murder, gun violence, sexual abuse, social rejection, families disowning their blood relations, lies, fraud, cynicism, superficiality, superiority complexes, cowardice, greed, ignorance, and all outdated and tired traditions that hurt people rather than elevate people.
The Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels of Ether at this moment in time is intended to serve any psyche that wishes to let go of forces that create unfair pain and suffering in every life; but my particular practice of it here and now is especially intended to offer space for healing in any lives similar to that of Tequila Leila from the book 10 minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World.
May those who endure childhood sexual abuse find deep inner healing. May those who work in the sex industry realize their truths and gifts and feel liberated from the indignities, cruelty, violence, and judgements continually thrust upon them. May people who think they are men and women of God, and often regard themselves as somehow spiritually superior to everyone else, come to new understandings about the ways of Grace and blessings. May the ways of Grace and blessings never deem any being, not even the smallest worm, “unworthy.” May those who haven’t the courage to speak the truth that dwells in their hearts find courage to sing their heart’s true song before it is “too late.”
Infinite gratitude to Elif Shafak for her work as a writer of profound insight, imagination, and compassion. May she continue to create literary masterpieces that fill us with hope and inspiration.