On Living and Dying Day 21 by Leigh Gaitskill

Life’s Cycles of Living and Dying 

by Leigh Gaitskill of Not Just Sassy on the Inside

I often think of living and dying in terms of the big finale and the life leading up to it. My father is 91 and my mother is 90, so death in that sense is on my mind. But more often lately I’m focused on the many ways in which we can die and live again in the course of a lifetime.

I’m arriving at a big juncture in a long, long tale of physical healing which, of course, has included a lot of emotional and spiritual healing. As my life slowly shifts into a new space in which my body is finally healthy and my muscles are at last free, I’ve been through a time of grieving for the me who once was.

As the final muscles are letting go I’m also experiencing a slow unfolding of a new me. Some nice parts of old me are peeking out again, many new behavior patterns are being displayed and, at the same time, I feel there’s a staging area just beyond my consciousness where a new version of me is still “becoming”.

Reflecting on the whole 30+ year journey so far, I see that dying and rebirth have been regular visitors. When I began I didn’t realize I had a zillion issues or an ancestral burden or that the puzzling health issues plaguing me were inextricably tied to emotional and ancestral patterns. So the first phase involved admitting to having problems and then becoming open to solving them. A choice to step off a path of being deadened to a path of living.

Exploring and releasing issues is, I think, a path of many deaths as you release this small piece and then that small piece of who you were. For me the largest moment – until now – arrived when I completed the Fisher-Hoffman Process. Our facilitator, Ellen Margron (sadly, now deceased) had done it for so long she’d created her own, super deep, version of the Process and my group spent nine months delving in the shadows, identifying and releasing negative beliefs, and forgiving.

When it was finished I had set off major kundalini and I felt almost no sense of self any more. For several months I could barely pull myself together to get off the couch. Not depressed or unhappy, just so cut off from my self and floating in major waves of energy, I couldn’t move.  Ellen called this “the void” and advised me to just rest in it. Any attempt to re-build a self, she said, would inevitably include calling back pieces I just released, so resist the urge to get out of the void.

I found it pleasant so the do-nothing plan felt easy. At the time I don’t think I saw this as the death of a version of me, though I now clearly see the void and the journey that put me in it as a death.

In the 24 years since then, to some extent I’ve continued to feel I don’t know who I am any more. I actually kept using the Process pretty extensively for another ten years, continually letting go of another piece and another piece. While I continued to express lifelong likes and dislikes and behave in some respects as always, on many fronts I felt estranged from the old me and unsure who to be and how to be.

One by one I let go of plans and visions about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. At the moment I still don’t have a replacement plan or vision. For quite a while I’ve had a sense that the physical healing needed to be completed before making a plan.

I turned my focus to the physical issues which, though improved, held on in spite of all the releasing. Eventually one of my body work practitioners started talking about Rupert Sheldrake’s and David Bohm’s works on ancestors, specifically discussing how ancestral emotional and muscle patterns are passed down through the generations

I continued working on the muscles, but I connected some of my long-held patterns with patterns I could see in my family and in photos of my predecessors. For the past six years I’ve worked on my ancestors and their legacy from many angles, including visits to a couple of healers who specialize in helping to clear ancestral motifs.

As I moved toward the last big clearing I began to see that much of my life has been lived in a groove created probably hundreds of years ago. I can also see how intermarriage often deepened the grooves by putting two similar sets of issues together and passing them down… Bit by bit I’ve been dying to those patterns and legacies from the many branches of my family tree.

Since I began clearing ancestral patterns, most of the hold-out muscles – the ones that seemed utterly resistant to letting go – have been opening at an ever quickening pace. I now see the muscle patterns aren’t just created by the emotional issues, but, once the pattern is set, the emotional tone the muscles hold begins to rule. With free muscles, I feel I’m being reborn into a new sense of emotional, mental and spiritual freedom.

I can sense how much the essence of me – the Divine Me – has been hidden, held back, encased by the armor of muscles and the auto-responses dictated by issues. I don’t know yet who that me is although I’m meeting her a little here and a little there. I am content to let the process of dying and rebirthing complete its process and reveal the next phase in its time. And then what will I die to next???


Salty and meLeigh Gaitskill has a BA in history and an MA in sociology from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Washington School of Law.

Her spiritual journey began in 1985 when a transpersonal psychologist introduced her to meditation, metaphysics and the principle that you create your own reality with your thoughts. She went on to Nine Gates Mystery School, the Fisher-Hoffman Process, sat with a Vipassana group, studied with a Hopi elder and also several Huna teachers.

She began studying yoga in 1986 with Bill Hunt, later the owner/director of Oak Park Yoga Center in Oak Park, Illinois. In 1988 she earned a teaching certificate from the teacher training program at the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. She developed classes using movements that trigger deep muscle releases and combining that with stretches and has created a manual that’s available on Kindle, called Restoring Fluidity and Freedom of Movement.

She’s been blogging since 2011 at Not Just Sassy on the Inside.


Written for the On Living and Dying series.  If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: 365 Days On Living and Dying.  But first, leave a comment and let Leigh know how you feel about what she said, and be sure to visit her over at Not Just Sassy on the Inside, when you’re done.


Featured image via http://www.wallpaperawesome.com

About the author

I am a King without a Kingdom, in a world with many masters, wrapped in the spoils of a jealous heart, and my people’s callous laughter.


  1. This was a very interesting article. I love the images of growing out of your deaths, or shedding the skins that are holding you back. Thanks for sharing so many details about the many processes you took in learning to live. It always helps to have new ways of understanding the journey that we all are on.

  2. Reblogged this on Not Just Sassy on the Inside and commented:
    On The Seeker’s Dungeon, Sreejit is asking for posts about Living and Dying and I wrote this for the series. It’s been interesting so far so I suggest you read the earier posts and keep checking in for the new ones.

  3. What a beautiful, authentic, deep to the core honest portrayal of your journey Leigh. I learn and grow so much from your blog. Thank you for the gift that you are.

  4. How totally inspiring and interesting to see the paths you have taken in shedding armour and the old you to a more spiritual you. It is also interesting that you are going beyond a generation or two to exploring ancestry which I do find fascinating!

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