I was sad to miss the death and dying course but heard that it was a really profound experience. Being close to death has been milestone in my life and my own journey. The death of my father and the less-than-selfless attitude/ actions that I brought to that experience have acted since as a propulsion to have a long look at my life and what I am bringing to the table.
In the past 9-months I have been visiting dying people each week. This has been a very deep experience for me. They have all been okay: when really faced with their biggest right of passage, they have all found courage, patience and compassion for themselves and those around them. This has given me the confidence that I might be able to find this too. It has also put the fragility of life front and centre: I will one day die. This makes what I am exploring through the Give Back Generation and through my own meditation practice all the more poignant for me. When I face my end, will it be at ease, knowing that I have done what I needed to do? Or will I be filled with regret from the things that I did not do or the selfish actions along the way?
A life filled with things purchased on impulse, or actions taken on impulse based on feeling, seems to be a life lived mindlessly, and certainly one that is taking out more than that which it is putting back in. I have been following this path now for 6 years. And yet it is only in the past 11 months that I have really started to take a long hard look at the way that my life is conducted. Making the aspiration to consume much less, and to commit much more to helping the needs of others has been a really wonderful thing for me. I already feel the relief, even if there are some aspects of it that I find painful and difficult.
Consuming less, to me, is as much about being less of a burden to the planet as it is about being okay to go unseen and unnoticed. Why am i buying that expensive jumper? Why am I driving that smart car? Why do I want this and that? Is it because I need it? Or is it, perhaps, to have others think of me the way in which I want them to think of me? This is the question that I am trying to ask myself with every non-food purchase.
Finally I wanted to say something about the way in which we give, and the way in which we take out. Earlier this year when I first made the commitment to take out less, I found myself being very generous materially with others. It was only when I reflected on this that I realised that I was compensating for that restless impulse. I am naturally a generous person, and find giving easy, and this is therefore something that I have been reflecting on: when am I being truly generous, and when am I mindlessly giving. How do I feel about giving that which I value for myself? This has led me to the conclusion that one of the best things that I can do is to be simultaneously of fewer needs, consuming less, whilst at the same time being more generous with my time for others, both with my time in doing service, as well as the small things like spending more time with my friends, my family, my dog etc.
I have been on more meditation retreats now than I know. But I have always found it hard to bring the practice back into my day to day life. This course and a few of my recent retreats has really started to transform that. This path is not what I thought it was, and I still have no idea really where it leads. But I am finally finding the courage to take the first meaningful steps and, painful as it often is, there is so much more beauty there than I ever expected, and for this I am so very grateful.