Thank you all for your comments, both with regard to this lesson and the previous one.
I definitely want to attend the “Death and Dying” course next year. The whole topic inspires so many questions and so much food for thought and introspection. Talking about death is often such an awkward topic in our society yet I find that the older I get (I’m 45 now) the more this subject fascinates me; the more I want to explore it and my relationship to it. How are we supposed to truly live if we can’t come to grips which the idea of dying? My parents are starting to come to that age where death is quite close – they are healthy, but for how long? – and we cannot speak of it. It’s the elephant in the room. Perhaps it’s because they are atheists through and through but whenever I broach the subject of what may come next the whole topic is shut down. Anger covering up the fear. Also, I feel the denial of the vulnerability they feel with regard to that aspect of their life (their mortality, disease, potentially losing their independence and having to be looked after) has impacted so much on the richness of the spectrum of their emotional life.
I feel sadness yet at the same time know that I have my lesson to learn in accepting this.
Emily, thank you for last week’s comment about “that elaborate idea of self – the self who values privacy when it comes to ‘real honesty’, who doesn’t like to share weaknesses for fear of being a burden, and whose esteem might be impacted by exposing myself publicly with raw honesty (…) My perceived need for my suffering to go unnoticed by those who have not experienced the same could potentially block my aspiration to serve and help the right people.” It all really resonated. I couldn’t have put it in better words myself. So thank you for sharing.
As for reducing the impact we make on this fragile planet, I admit I have met resistance within myself. I made my list of what I could do (giving away stuff being first and foremost on the list, being more aware of resources consumption (water, electricity, etc.)) and, as I was writing these things down I paid attention to Burgs request to look at what kind of emotions these actions engendered and what kind of emotions prompted them. Well… in my case I must admit the emotion that came to the surface the most was guilt and shame. Guilt and shame for having so much “stuff” to begin with. (Why did I even buy half the things I own? What prompted these purchases? What part of me that I was uncomfortable with was I “escaping” at the time?). Guilt and shame for all the intentions I had and never got round to accomplishing (for example, in the last year I bought dozens of photo frames for pictures of the children I wanted to print and hang up but never got round to it). Admitting to having that stuff lying around (sometimes still in its packaging) meant confronting my inclination for torpor, laziness and procrastination. So I guess part of what makes it so hard for me to go through my stuff and get rid of it is that all these items are an unpleasant reminder of either the state of “non-presence” I was in when I made the purchases in the first place, or they are a reminder of all the (often misguided) aspirations I had when making the purchase. (The dozens of cookbooks with all those healthy recipes I so wanted to cook – which I never opened; the fitness video which I never watched; etc. etc.). It’s not necessarily that I cling to the objects per se, but having to look at these objects – my stuff – obliges me to confront my delusions about myself. Having said that, thank you Burgs for reminding us that this is not supposed to be exclusively an exercise in guilt! In fact, after I was dwelling on all of this, part of me said “f*** this!” I want this to be something I do with JOY! I want to make my contribution of treading more lightly on this planet and giving back with joy in my heart, not with guilt and misery. What am I REALLY going to add to the collective well-being of the world if I dump my stuff at the local charity with a heart filled with guilt and shame? Which brings me to the awareness that cleaning up our hearts and our minds is just as important as cleaning up our closets, garages and attics. If we were all truly at peace with ourselves, what need would we have to boost our self-esteem by spending our weekends shopping for clothes made by under-aged children in some foreign land? If we were all truly at peace with ourselves and hence saw the oneness inherent in us all, would we even conceive of operating in foreign countries militarily or politically or economically to the detriment of the local population?
These lessons bring up so much food for thought. I am very grateful.