Something will happen to me, and I will die.  The same is for you.  Is that terrifying or comforting?.  This paradox of living.

As wise man Ray Hillis poignantly quoted on the #earthconversepodcast, “your death is the most important fact of your life”.

It deserves our attention, curiosity, courage and respect.

So is there any more perfect day to talk about the practice of living and dying consciously, than today?.

Why talk about living and dying?

Well, there are many reasons, but these for a start.

  • It surrounds us.
  • With or without a virus, none of us are getting out of here alive.  As the Onion announced, ‘World Death Rate is Holding Steady at 100 Percent’.
  • I would argue that our obsession that growth is good, decline is bad is keeping us in denial about ourselves and our planet.
  • It seems that we have forgotten ‘how to die’ symbolically. This limits our ability to fully step into our potential. As people. And leaders.

Obviously, the topic is big. And that is the thing. It is so big that, particularly in our western culture we shy away from it.   Something so beyond our control we keep it in dark corners.  We shroud it in taboos, projections, superstitions and silence.  It is of course, the ultimate fear.  The one which all our other fears stem.

Covid19

And as the thought-provoking Charles Eisenstein wrote during Covid19,

Covid-19 has elevated death to prominence in the consciousness of a society that denies it. On the other side of the fear, we can see the love that death liberates. Let it pour forth. Let it saturate the soil of our culture and fill its aquifers so that it seeps up through the cracks of our crusted institutions, our systems, and our habits. Some of these may die too..”.

Rites of passage

Which is something what Meredith Little has been encouraging us to do. Meredith, who together with her husband founded The School of Lost Borders has been guiding vision fasts and rites of passage for over 35 years. She has it as her mission to inspire us into living and dying consciously.  Her programme, the Practice of Living and Dying, which she co-developed with Scott Eberle, is a wonderful gift to the world. It serves to help break the silence and restore dying to its natural place in the cycles of life.   Drawing from earth-based wisdom, she gently guides us to look into our own nature, in nature, to explore our relationship with death and rebirth.

For me, the programme is multidimensional. But to give you a feel, here are 3 of its offerings:

Preparing for our own physical death

To have a perspective of how we would like to die (acknowledging it may not necessarily go to plan) is empowering and liberating.  To reflect in advance of that generally unpredictable event, is a gift to our own life and transition. We can do as much as we can so as not add to the grief and burden of those we leave behind, as a true act of kindness. It gives us the time to reflect about the conversations we need to have (now), to do our forgiveness work, to make peace with our lives. We can think about the legacy we want to leave, as an ancestor of the future. We can organise our material possessions and we can make a will.

Supporting someone dying or grieving a death

How many people around us in our friendship circles, at work, in our community are grieving the loss of a loved one, or are themselves dying or paralysed in fear at the thought of it? To what extent are we mindful of their experience?  How do we meet them where they are? Are we really turning up for them? Sometimes it may be asking the simple and profound question ‘what do you need?’ and listening deeply to that answer.

Symbolically dying

Every day initiates us into living and dying consciously, for we are in constant change.  If we are aware, we can  symbolically renew our relationship with life and death and endings and beginnings within ourselves, at any time. It is these “little deaths” and various “rebirths” we can take to call in the life we really want. In doing so, we prepare ourselves for the final transition, ‘the big Death that awaits us all’.

As Charles Dubois wrote, “the important things is this:  to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become”. That may be a belief, a habit, a fear, a fixed identity.  Anything that holds us back from living the life we were born into. This quality of dying, is beautifully explored in Elle Harrison’s Wild Courage. There she talks about how it creates space for change in our individual and organisational lives.

And who is our best teacher?

Nature.

Everywhere it offers its gifts and lessons for how we can gracefully embrace the cycles of living and rebirth.  It is the ultimate in resetting and resourcing.

Autumn brings the fallen leaves and also the harvest. Today the sun came up, tonight it will set. Right now, you can breathe in because you can breathe out.

So perhaps you will take up the invitation Meredith offers: of going out to nature and sitting with something that is dying, and asking it, ‘what needs to die within me’.  And to sit there and listen.

Sources:

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