Is This Really Your Last Year?

There must be some way to integrate death into living, neither ignoring it nor giving in to it.

– Audre Lorde

If we wish to die well, we must learn how to live well: Hoping for a peaceful death, we must cultivate peace in our mind, and in our way of life.

— The Dalai Lama

indexIn an ideal world, I’d live out my 80+ year life expectancy and die quietly in my sleep.

“She was healthy & sharp until the very end,” they’d all say.

But I’m trying something different here. This time around, I’m practicing taking my final breath at age 43.

I’m participating in a “Year to Live” study group, based on the book of that name by Stephen Levine. We’re a group of about 25 who meet once a month at the cozy Village Zendo in New York City. We’ve all been given a hypothetical date one year later to die.

“What a downer,” some have said.

“Why on earth would you do that?” others manage.

For me, this is really an exercise in living.

It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but I believe that there can be no better way to learn to live fully than to live with a sense of the immediacy and the impermanence of it all.

Wiser men & women than I have undertaken similar quests since the beginning of time. Many of them have been transformed by it.

Waiting until I’m weakened physically feels too late.  I’ve been with loved ones in pain and losing their ability to concentrate — it’s a hard time for equanimity.  Stephen Levine’s wife Ondrea (who has a terminal illness herself) says, “We die the way we live.” Now seems to be a very good time to get serious about the journey.

I hope you’ll come along and join me.

* To read more about how my blog came to be, please visit this post on Daily Kos by the ever-insightful blogger citisven.

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