Monday, September 23, 2019

The Practice of Living and Dying

Is there any more perfect day to talk about the practice of living and dying than on the equinox?.
You may ask why I want to write about such a topic. I have many reasons, but these for a start. 
1) Well, none of us are getting out of here alive.   As The Onion announced, ‘World Death Rate is Holding Steady at 100 Percent’.  
2) I want to be good at it!
3) I would argue that our obsession that growth is good, decline is bad is keeping us in denial about ourselves and our planet (more on this at a later date!)
4) It seems that we have forgotten ‘how to die’ symbolically, which limits our ability to fully step into our potential, as people. As 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.   It is something so beyond our control we keep it in dark corners.  We shroud it in taboos, projections, superstitions and silence. 
Which is why, the likes of the humble wise Meredith Little, who together with her husband founded The School of Lost Borders and who has been guiding vision fasts and rites of passage for over 35 years,  has it as her mission, to inspire us to live and die consciously.  Her programme, The Practice of Living and Dying, which she co-developed with Scott Eberle, is a wonderful gift to the world, serving 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: 

1) To prepare 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.    To do as much as we can so we do not add to the grief and burden of those we leave behind is 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.   It helps us to think about the legacy we want to leave, as an ancestor of the future. It gives time to do a will. 

2)To help support 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? How can we be mindful of their experience?  How do we meet them where they are? How do we turn up for them? Sometimes it may be asking the simple and profound question ‘what do you need?’ and listening deeply to that answer.  

3) And perhaps more powerfully, and certainly something for our everyday life, to explore what needs to die within us, in order to grow into what we can be.   Every day initiates us into living and dying, for we are in constant change.  We can therefore 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, and in doing so 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, where she talks about how it creates space for change in our individual and organisational lives. 

And who is our best teacher?


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 ask it, ‘what needs to die within me’.  And to sit there and listen. 


Word of the Day: ‘equinox’ – the moment today, 23 Sept, when the Sun’s path (ecliptic)crosses the celestial equator, resulting in a near even worldwide division of day and night. Tweet by @RobGMacfarlane.  23 Sept 2019

The School of Lost Borders

Thank you to Meredith and all those beautiful souls, and Diana and Xavi from Transalquimia who wonderfully hosted and held our work 

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