Does Life have an Opposite?: Moving With and Beyond Kairos


All things, if they are alive, transform.  Meaning, there appear to be beginnings and endings in them.  The Pendulum Blog is no exception.  It has a parent:  The Kairos Network Blog, where I, and others, wrote about End of Life Care experiences.   But there has been a yearning to develop larger ideas about life, illness, birth and death further and more generally, so there is this new blog child.  Don’t all healthy children go way beyond the limits of a parent?  Here are some of my musings about how this new blog came into being as I wholeheartedly invite you into it.  

The Pendulum’s work is to teach about regulation, about moving with order, grace and conherence through the larger arcs of the bigger life I call LIFE (not just “life” in a body).  We could even say it will teach that thing called Wisdom which puts forth clearly that what is new is not the opposite of what came before, but of one piece.  These days it is almost all I teach, and I will be teaching it here.  Stay tuned.

by Jeanne Denney


A few falls ago a friend of mine was teaching a class in a local college called “Sociology of Aging”.  Typical class of about 25 suburban 20-something year olds.  It was the first time that she had ever taught this class, and she was finding the class kind of shut down.   Part of the class requirements were to interview an older adult, but after a few discussions Sue realized that they were actually afraid of old people, looking at them, seeing them, being seen by them, talking to them.  “Jeanne, come talk to them…  I think that they are afraid of death.”

What were they afraid of?  I wondered.  Old people aren’t usually powerful enough to be threatening or aggressive.  They are largely ignored.  They are generally very happy for attention and companionship.  They like to talk if they still have the capacity.  They like to be listened to. They usually like to be touched.  What was it that they were afraid of?  Toothlessness?  Crooked joints?  The smell of canned gravy and urine?  It was a puzzle.

I can’t remember what I presented.  I think I talked about how there is a life principle of pulsation that distinguishes all life forms, but that it is also present in all forms of nature.  I talked about the complimentary principles of contraction and expansion, about their balance in coherent states.   I talked about how most everything in our minds and bodies works on this principle.  I had everyone breathe three times in and out to experience it.  Then, after having them hold the different points in the in and out cycle of their breath, I had them experience the discomfort of resisting the movement of pulsation. I made the point that if we are going to be alive, death (exhale) has to be a part of the equation.  Then I talked about how marketing and media that is so much of our culture generally celebrates only the expansive principle.  The rest is considered trauma.    I asked them questions like these:

  • “Have you ever had an experience with someone aging or dying?”.
  • “How does the fact that we only celebrate expansion (such as the stage of life you are in) impact people who are facing aging or dying in this culture?”  Did they think that the aged were their opposites, or something in aging was going to consume them?
  • I asked “What are the gifts of aging?”

Moving Against the Tide of Marketing

I listened to them shyly talk about their encounters with people who were sick or who had died, grandparents mainly, some aunts and uncles, some friends.  It seemed clear that when they had heart connections with real old people in their lives they were enriched by contact, but somehow in the abstract, it seemed that the very idea of the pull into elderhood seemed a threat, as if they were going to lose their tenuous hold on the adulthood they thought they were trying to birth by being in touch with it.  They were afraid to touch the tide moving in another direction or at a different frequency.  Perhaps they did not feel strong enough.

At one point in the conversation about pulsation I remember turning to a young man and saying:  “What I am trying to say is that Death is not the opposite of Life!”.  He was silent for a moment, and finally responded.  “Well, if Death is not the opposite of Life….what IS the opposite of Life?

That was one of those rare and beautiful moments in teaching when teacher and student are one.  I responded from some place in the black box of my being, a place unreachable by will, intention or the human ego, unreachable without the students question.  After the long moment I returned:  “Why does life have to have an opposite?”

The words fell like a thick stone into a still pool.  We both fell still, knowing we had been given a large thing to chew on.And chew I have, for several years now.

In that question and response was nested my work most likely for the rest of my life.  Not that it had not already started, but it began to gain a clarity.   Teaching the unity of death and birth, meaning the nature of life itself as pulsation and energy, not just bodily identity,  is my work.   Of course this has been done for gillions of years in wisdom cultures, but it is clear that we need a new lens, a new language uniting scientific and poetic languages with experience, a new way to discover it and permission for the same.  And so I am showing up to speak and write and teach about all of this in a new form, perhaps making a fool of myself, perhaps not being understood.  All ok.

To me it is clear that wrongheaded conceptions and definitions of life and death are at the core of most human ills, and that right and even more scientifically accurate viewing of both are at the core of (yes I will be grandiose), saving the planet  ; – )  and….even having a good and happy life.   This is all a long way of saying that I am starting this new blog where I can support myself in this task.

Does Kairos End?

I started Kairos Network blog deeply in love with this word Kairos.  It is a greek and means non-linear time, perhaps even magical, serrendipitous time,  the place in the heart where all things start, perhaps that still point between the beats.   A non-dual place of true opportunity, creation and blessedness.  The Bardo, perhaps, in every moment.

For the past few years I have offered  posts in the Kairos Network Blog, and hosted wonderful writers in the hopes of just advancing dialogue on end of life, a kind of sandbox play for end of life (hate that idiom) caregivers.  I am so grateful to those of you who have read, shared, commented, supported, contributed.   It didn’t need to be a success in the ordinary way (you know the marketing, branding way).  Indeed wouldn’t that take away from it?  I don’t know how to do that kind of success anyway.  I never intended for it to feature just my experiences (unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked out that way…yet). My blog production fell off in part because I was doing less active end of life care and, well there is so much more I really want to write about, as important as this is.  I need to write here.

But the Kairos Network Blog will definately continue, even if it is slow, and I emphatically rejoice to accept guest blogs from caregivers ready to write and reflect coherently about their aging parents, their own illnesses and family members.   I may change its appearance, and I will occasionally post there about end of life care issues myself, but mainly I am refocusing my writing energy to  The Pendulum and will make a regular committment to write about the really big picture (see upcoming workshop) and how it manifests in our daily lives at any age.  Through working birth and death and everything in between, I have come to see that the life force itself is a moving, breathing entity we can directly perceive at work in self and others. How are birth and death related in these waves?  If LIFE is movement more than anything else, how does it move?  How we can see it at work? What have things as diverse as electromagnetism and trees taught us about it?   How do we learn to take care of and sustain it? You can find it here.  Seem vague or boring?  It won’t be.

Come to think about it, of course this is a death/rebirth project.  The Kairos Network Blog is not ending, but it is transforming and connecting to its new offspring.  The Pendulum will keep time in a different way, hopefully keeping the mystery of the movement of time and the beat of a heart alive within it (as all good children do).

I hope if you will consider hitting the Follow button (upper left).  I will welcome you as in moments of transformation all things need their nurturance.

Yours is so welcome.

With peace and good heart and thanks.

Your friend in the love of elders.  And for that matter, all living things.


Jeanne Denney is a therapist, hospice worker and death educator in the Greater New York area. Her website is and email is  Friend me on facebook!