Is there anything we take more for granted than life itself? We are alive -- what a miracle! But here's the question. What are you doing with your life?
• Are you living it on the surface checking off endless to-do lists?
• When was the last time you had a deep conversation with someone you love or a total stranger?
• How well do you really know yourself, your family and friends?
• When was the last time you explored your deepest beliefs about life and death and the spiritual dimension of it all?
• From where do you draw meaning in your life?
When I was in college, I discovered The I Ching and was particularly fascinated by how this ancient book of oriental wisdom captured the comings and goings and the juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, light and dark, life and death in the human experience. Each movement in the dance of life has embedded within it opportunities and challenges to awaken one's consciousness to an intuitive wisdom that is woven into the human experience. Yet, how many of us are paying attention to these deep messages of the mysteries of life and death?
Just as our physical muscles require exercise for optimum performance, so too does the part of our consciousness that is capable of perceiving life's deepest mysteries and lessons. Surely, there are many sensual and delightful pleasures to be enjoyed and disturbing experiences to be avoided living on life's surface. However, there are dimension of love, spiritual transcendence, compassion, and other rare gifts of life's bounty that are only accessible to those who seek them and are willing to risk the vulnerability of residing in unfamiliar territory.
I attended a Death Cafￃﾩ last week and was struck by how vastly private and diverse our experiences and approaches are to this rarified territory. The fact that seventy strangers showed up to talk about death with each other was a testament to the hunger many of us have to share the richer and deeper parts of ourselves. At my table of six only one person, a woman with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer had broken the death taboo with her own family with frank discussions about her prognosis and what that meant for them as a family. The rest of us were typical of the society as a whole, silenced on the topic yet hungry for existential meaning. Our conversation was energetic, profound, respectful of differences, and a refreshing opportunity to have others bear witness to our deepest truths and fears. I confess that I have a really strong aversion to the name "Death Cafￃﾩ," but once I got over that the experience itself was deeply enriching.
Our table was like a microcosm of the world at large. One person is living moment to moment with a terminal diagnosis, another is a devout member of a local Bruderhof Christian community, and two had only a vague sense of what they believed. Another discounted any and all beliefs regarding death and/or what happens after death because all is purely speculation from his point of view. I would describe myself as deeply spiritual, but not religious and one who spends a significant amount of time probing, expanding, and uplifting my consciousness. As diverse as our points of view were, there we all were with a shared desire to let total strangers into our private inner worlds to our most passionately held and life affirming and altering beliefs.
Conversations like this with ourselves, our loved ones or total strangers are important because they provide an opportunity for us to claim and affirm what resonates and reverberates as truth within us. This kind of sharing exercises those deeper consciousness muscles so that we can learn to rely upon them as our core strength. Recognizing this inner truth within ourselves serves to guide us in making our daily and life altering decisions in alignment with this inner compass of knowledge and belief. As we share deeply with others, we broaden our horizons and bridge the gap of our otherwise very private inner worlds. Instead of giving each other an airbrushed version of ourselves, we risk the vulnerability of letting others know who we most profoundly know ourselves to be.
In my own life's journey so far, one of the things that is most precious to me is deeply connecting with another person in such a way that we experience a kind of transcendence into a sacred territory of mutual respect and oneness. Yet, these moments of encounter are very few and far between despite the fact that I have a lot of like-minded friends. I can't help but wonder why we spend so much of our time disconnected from each other or engaging in right/wrong power struggles rather than both/and transcendence.
A final set of questions:
- How deeply do you know yourself?
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