Reading ‘The Final Gift of the Beloved’ by Barron Steffen & Reflecting on the Loss of Love

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

It’s easy to say I couldn’t put this book down. It’s harder however to deal with its topic: the sudden loss of a loved one. This is why it took me some time to write about my experience of reading it. The book begins with the dramatic account of how the author, Barron Steffen, found out about the unexpected death of his wife. As readers, in the following pages and through a series of insightful flashbacks, we are slowly uncovering how the author began his yogic path and how he met and fell in love with this wife, Seana. It is a profound account of how yoga and meditation can create a safe holding space within yourself during times of extreme sadness. I enjoyed the way in which the book was written, which created almost a cinematographic experience while also imparting knowledge regarding Indian culture, spirituality and mysticism. At certain points in the book the author provides us with some pure nuggets of wisdom:

Book cover

Neurons were firing in places inside my brain that had never wired together before, and like honey dripping through a net, reconnecting to the other known pathways was a slow process. Moment by moment, my experience was subdividing itself onto sequences of solitary stop-action frames. Each snapshot was an entire world unto itself, never again to be repeated or revisited (…) It was trauma (…) Seana would have said that my reaction was the result of never having asked the unaskable question. In strategic questioning, yet another of her areas of teaching mastery, the unaskable is that question which, if unexamined, can threaten the foundation of the design of life in that realm. The fear of looking sets and avoidance pattern in place that jeopardizes the authenticity and integrity of the path.

p. 12-13

The Yogic text, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, states that the purpose of meditation is stilling the thought-waves of the mind. Over the years, through daily meditation I had begun to experience myself as free for the first time since I was very young. Cultivating a daily practice, I learned what it meant to watch my thoughts. By slowing the mind down and witnessing my mental patterns, that pause both created and expanded gaps within the flow of my mental activity. In meditation, I would become filled by an innate, ever-present awareness (…)

p. 39-40

And we know how this wisdom was earned – by living through the pain of losing your soulmate and managing to summon the strength to write about this experience. It’s a comforting book even if at times too idealistic. Barron is vulnerable in his account, describing his experiences of shock and grieving, his shortcomings in a previous relationship which gifted him a child and how eventually he began healing and accepting the loss of his wife in a clear and self-aware language.

What struck me the most was how he described the imperfect process of shifting his mindset and understanding that separation from love is only an illusion, a Maya. I think this beautiful and heart-opened approach to storytelling is worth engaging with:

What kind of ending is this for that beautiful soul? It seems utterly incongruous with the way she lived every minute of her life. But following immediately on its heels comes a pronounced feeling of boundless love. It rushes through me with such otherworldly tenderness that all at once I know this is right. I can feel it everywhere in my body, my heart and vibrating in the room too. And with this precipitous understanding comes an acceptance and a clarity that I am supposed to be here. It’s sacred. My breath instinctively deepens and a wave of relaxation and anticipation electrifies me.

p. 153-154

In a nutshell, I recommend this book to anyone dealing with grief and loss, potentially to be read in tandem with the classic account of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ detailed account of how we can live with loss and allow the process of grief to change us for the better:

Being Death-positive

In tandem with reading this book, I also started watching the videos of Caitlin Doughty on Youtube. Caitlin is a mortician and has a very unique approach to how she speaks about death. What makes her stand out from the crowd is that she has some outrageously funny shorts clips on death. She’s delivering a death positive message in a world that continues to think of death and dead bodies as something taboo. Without discarding the sacred element of how people transition from the 3D to the 5D, she manages to entertain while also informing us. She describes her channel as a place of ‘fear and fun, of existential despair and whimsy’.

A short history of human skulls as drinking cups – Ask a Mortician, You Tube

I couldn’t help but notice the synchronicity of when she appeared in my consciousness: Caitlin’s work was recommended on my feed while I was reading Steffen’s book about the loss of love and some weeks before the Halloween holiday – a time when overall we tend to consider our relationships to the dead and what lies beyond the veil. So a lot of resources were manifested in my life to get me reflect on death and dying in a completely different way – and this in 2020, the year of social mayhem and the looming fear of death.

Inevitably, and because my mind works in many different associations (like constellations), I was also reminded of two films I enjoy re-watching: Donnie Darko & The Fountain. In the first one, Donnie a clever adolescent with sleep issues is preparing for a very personal ‘end of the world’ tale, some days right before Halloween. Donnie’s dark story is significant because it shows how even if we try to stop Death and play God, ultimately what is meant to be will happen, whether we like it or not. Bending the laws of physics won’t help much.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone in Donnie Darko (2001) – Newmarket Releasing/Everett Collection

The same theme of playing God and wanting to stall time to recover our lost loved one, echoes in the gorgeously filmed ‘The Fountain’. In this movie a scientist in mourning tries to use states of higher consciousness and meditation to reconnect with his deceased wife on different realms and across timelines. But acceptance that death is inevitable and precisely this fact is what makes life so precious is central to the main character’s healing process and spiritual development; part of our spiritual awakening process involves learning how to let go and to accept painful endings.

Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006)

Death and how we cope with it brings up issues of control and letting go, or perfect acceptance and surrender (samadhi) versus the willpower of our human egos to delay death. This is why I’ve enjoyed Steffen’s book, because it is well-written and has helped me reflect more widely on the dissolution of the Ego in the process of coming to the terms with solitude, and the passing over of the person who was meant to help him face the fear of Death. Why else would we socialize and couple? Because it makes us feel safe and protected from death and loneliness. Facing such fears and being able to accept them, get us to prepare for our unavoidable demise; and to my mind, this is the gift of the general process of slowing down that we all collectively are experiencing in 2020. Knowing that life is limited and that there is ‘an expiration date’ – to put it crudely – is making the act of living in the present all the move vivid and intense.

Different Forms of Love and Relating

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Bed-In For Peace – Montreal, Canada 1969 by Stephen Sammons

Baron Steffen considered his wife, his soulmate, which made me reflect on the different types of relationships we might experience in like, and also the ones I am exploring in my spiritual and tarot-based practice as well. So here is a breakdown of the many forms love can take in our everyday interactions as my crew shared with me that they have been experiencing them.

Karmic Connections are usually connections we established with people from a previous lifetime. These relationships carry with them, energetically speaking, a sense of debt, pain and responsibility. Karmic connections are the most common connections of all. They can be romantic (in which case your lover is a soulmate) but more often they are parental and job-related, due to the energy of being locked in a form of relating that involves paying off a debt. The debt relates to an energetic imbalance: say you offered more and a person took a lot from you; or your were in a pattern of domination and submission with that karmic partner. Well in this lifetime, the scales are usually reversed. If you were the dominant, now you are the submissive, and viceversa. I’m not talking about sex here, but about power dynamics which exist across all relationships and especially the ones we share with our parents who have the most power over us. With karmic connections, there is usually the uncomfortable feeling that at one point the burden has to be dropped, either through separations or repayments (a parent dies, disappears, you don’t speak to them anymore, or you become a parent yourself and make your folks grandparents etc.). Most frequently, karmic partners are our teachers, our friends, our doctors, priests, lawyers, bosses and co-workers. How do you know if you met a karmic partner? By the queasy feeling you get in your gut that somehow this person’s energy will offset you and teach you something (usually you either dislike them or admire them immediately). There is a pattern of ‘I can’t quit you but I feel I must’. In time, these relationships lose the energy they need to carry on.

Soulmate Love is a form of love that you can share with a karmic partner across a couple of lifetimes; there is the high likelihood that you were engaged in romantic connections across all your previous lifetimes with this special person. This is the stuff you see written about in songs, in literature and depicted in great works of art. Soulmate love happens between two people who instantly recognize one another as ‘familiar’, even if they never exchanged a word in the present reality. Usually one look is all it takes to send each other a gesture of acknowledgement. There is a sense of coming home to someone, of feeling relief and joy at finally having met them. You will share many things in common with a soulmate and while your love will be romantic, it is not really devastatingly passionate (see section below for that). Soulmate love is about trust and recognition, stability and the natural order of things. A soulmate is a partner you settle down with and raise children with (once karmic obstacles are removed). Even if the relationships might require some work, you won’t feel depleted of energy like in a karmic connection, but with a soulmate you will experience a sense that your heart is expanding into tranquility and peace; you see yourself growing old with this person, and you feel that everything is going to be alright and that you make a great team in this world, together.

Twin-flames do not happen to all of us in a lifetime. They are unique and rare and most often they come about in people whose lives have been touched by trauma and transformation, and people whose lives have a specific goal to fulfill. Your twin is your mirrored image, in either the body of a man and woman. It is called ‘flame’ because the energy is so intense that when you come together physically there is a sense that you burn from your whole being with emotions. You are driven mad if you are not with them all the time, because you feel as if you are removed from yourself. These connections are tempestuous and passionate love affairs that can destabilize people’s trajectories in life; they are usually brief and memorable. There are obstacles, limits and many impediments that come about to separate you, and paradoxically it is this separation that proves to be the goal of your connection: to create something new for the whole world to benefit from. You are not meant to live with your twin flame but to use the experience of having met him/her and tell the tale of your otherworldly love. Many famous actors, politicians, musicians, artists and writers were involved in twin flame relationships, and it had to be so, because on a spiritual level these people were meant to transmute energy around them for the greater benefit of the collective consciousness. They did so by creating something unique and culturally significant for their time and place; in some cases, even their failures proved to be significant. Examples of famous twin-flame couples are Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Yoko Ono and John Lennon.

Dharmic Relationships are blessings that help you progress towards the main purpose of our current existence and beyond; but we might recoil from these blessings, much like we tend to recoil from our own light and divinity 🙂 Dharma is our reward for having cleared karma, and dharmic people are connected to Rahu or the North Node in Western Astrology (that point in our birth-chart that shows what we incarnated here to do and in what area of life we must learn a lot, in order to progress and evolve). The more we pay back our past-life debts and become aware of what these are and that indeed that we are working towards absolving them, the more we move towards our dharma. A dharmic person has qualities we want to own ourselves but are afraid to embody; so we might admire them but also feel uneasy around such a person because they won’t feel familiar but rather odd and foreign. Nonetheless, our dharmics will bring us blessings and teach us all we need to know to step into our destiny. Dharmic relationships are fresh, new soul connections with people we have not met in a past life but they can nonetheless become our karmic, if we reincarnate. They have a fascinating appeal and can sometimes turn obsessive. When our soul first lived on this plane of existence, all of our human connections were dharmic and only through incarnations was karma created to be worked up in a subsequent life-time. Clearing away karma and living within dharmic connections as much as we can, helps us ultimately to fulfil our life purpose with the promise that one day we might reach Nirvana (or paradise, the freedom from incarnating again).

For those interested I made a video on my YouTube channel ‘The Spiritual Social’ which describes these relationships more in-depth:

With universal love,

Lexi <3

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