...And Knowing This, How Shall we Live?
I had a powerful dream recently in which I was walking around shouting to people
“We’re all going to die! Wake up!”.
In the dream, I met an author who was curating a book with chapters by different contributors, answering the inquiry question: “ What do you know to be true and how might you live differently in the face of what you know?”
I told her I’d like to contribute a chapter on knowing that every single one of us is going to die. And it could be anytime. And it could even be en masse, in waves, or all at once (if the worst climate change trajectories come into being).
As my conversation with the author continued, I was telling her what my top tips for readers would be. Here are the two that I recalled and wrote down on awakening:
1 Stop doing anything that is meaningless, or pointless, or is only a means to an assumed future end. Life really is too short to be in drudgery, or enduring something now for the promise of an imagined future (whether in this life or beyond).
2 Prioritise love, kindness, compassion and connection with your family, friends, neighbours and the communities you belong to. There is so much division and polarisation in politics, the media and social media. What if enough of us turned away from all that and committed to balancing relationships with connection and kindness instead? It may take some practice if we have fallen into bad habits, or have unhealed trauma which sees the world as threatening. But if not us, then who will be beacons for compassion when the shit goes down?
On waking, and while my dream was still fresh, I added the following points while still in connection with my unconscious mind and intuition:
3 Hold conversations in which each participant actively listens for the common ground, rather than debating differences. Practice relating in ways in which the common good and the whole are prioritised over individual concerns and differences. This skill will stand us in good stead if there are difficult community decisions to be made.
4 Grow and share food. Although every one of us will die one day, we may as well be as healthy as possible while we live. Growing organic fruit and vegetables has all manner of health benefits, while also building healthy soils for whatever life forms may arrive on the land once humanity has gone.
Hands and feet in the soil, being with the land, with plants, insects, birds and weather systems is a simple and natural way to deepen our connection with nature, feeling our place in the interconnected web of life. It can be a deeply meditative experience too, in which our nervous systems relax and our troubles melt away.
The Indigenous American writer Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote the widely beloved book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ in which she tells us about the principles of the Honourable Harvest, where we are encouraged to:
Ask permission (of the plants/animals) before taking food from the natural world
Take only what you need
Leave some of what is gathered for the other animals
Give a gift in reciprocity for what you have taken (e.g. tobacco, corn, barley)
Do not waste what you have harvested
These principles bring us into right relationship with the natural ecosystem we’re part of and they’re underpinned by thanksgiving practices, which in themselves strengthen both our resilience and the joys of living.
5 Commit to whichever mind-body-spirit practices nourish you most. Whether it’s mindfulness, yoga, qi gong, reiki or being in nature, a regular practice that helps maintain equilibrium and calm will be increasingly essential as the turbulent times we’re living in look likely to get even tougher. Who knows what kind of derailments will be visited on us next? The more of us who can maintain peacefulness and stay out of groups of people taking sides and turning on each other, the better.
6 Do what you love! What brings you joy and delight? For me it’s walking in the woods and on the beach, growing food on my plot, being with my grandchildren, dancing, being in the company of good friends. Whatever joy and delightfulness look like for you, do that, as much as possible.
We’re all going to die one unforeseeable day and then it’ll all be over. So let’s enjoy this life while we can.It’s a precious miracle.
I’m aware, of course, that the advice given in my dream and half-waking time was meant for me. But since the dream pointed me in the direction of writing and publishing my response to the inquiry question, it seems right to be sharing this with you. And, if you feel moved to do so, I’d love to hear how this lands with you? Please drop me a line, or comment below, as I love to hear from people who read my blog.