Some may find it morbid. Some may think I’m tempting fate.
My superstitious self is screaming. My inner actor says, “beware.”
Today, on my 49th birthday, I’m giving myself a year to live.
In 365 days (or less), I will die. Lights out. The end.
I don’t know if I will suffer.
I don’t know if my death will be quick or prolonged.
Will there be pain?
Will my mind go?
Numerous Buddhist traditions contemplate death as part of their practice: The frailty of the flesh. The inevitability of sickness, aging, and dying.
What will life be like a year after we die? Ten years? Two hundred?
The practice I’m undertaking is one laid out by Stephen Levine in his book A Year to Live.
According to the jacket:
“Most of us go to extraordinary lengths to ignore, laugh off, or deny the fact that we are going to die, but preparing for death is one of the most rational and rewarding acts of a lifetime. It is an exercise that gives us the opportunity to deal with unfinished business and enter into a new and vibrant relationship with life. Levine provides us with a year-long program of intensely practical strategies and powerful guided meditations to help with this work, so that whenever the ultimate moment does arrive for each of us, we will not feel that it has come too soon.”
For the next twelve months, I will practice dying, which is, also, to practice living.
This work dives deep. It seeks to liberate the heart.
Who is it that dies? Who is it that lives? Who bears witness?
Be it life or death that arises in the next moment, can I meet it fearlessly with an open heart?
Life on life’s terms.
Death on death’s terms.
Let the countdown begin…