Palm ashes and sacred oil annoint the forehead, blessing the third eye of inner vision, awakening the mind to remember there was a beginning and there will be an end.
Some Tibetan monks carry prayer beads in the shape of human skulls carved from bone, a reminder that earthly existence is transitory. Beads of bone guide their thoughts and actions. Ashes of palm leaves lead to repentance and the start of Lenten Fast, a journey of Death and Resurrection
To some it may seem morbid, even repulsive. Others shun the idea of repentance and self denial.
No one seeks to feel regret, sorrow or self-reproach. The ego is defensive against such realization.
But when one looks within, begins to remember, can be honest in self reflection, true growth begins.
Therefore, take upon yourself the ashes of remembrance that "you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."
To repent past actions is to have a "change of mind and heart", or, "change of consciousness."
Let it not be a cause of shame, but a doorway to discovery, an awakening to the reality beyond physical limitations. Yes, the physical body is of the earth and to the earth it will return. But you are more than flesh and bones. So much more. You are eternal.
To awaken the memory, consider the zen question, "What did you look like before you were born?"
Then ask yourself, "What will you look like when your body becomes dust?"
So much is given to the dust. What will you give to your soul?