I recently met someone who said to me “Oh, that’s right, you’re the hypnosis guy… I’ve done Reiki level two and believe in all that psychic stuff…”
I did my best not to glaze over and not give a facial expression that said “???” and we had a polite conversation… I am not going to revisit the topics of why hypnosis gets lumped in with the paranormal and other fields of alternative healthcare today… Instead I am looking at the jolly subject of death.
(As an aside, when she said that she was an accountant, I stopped myself from saying “Oooh… I did a physics GCSE at school and I believe in all that anti-terrorism policy being introduced by the government…” Because that has about the same level of relevance as her comment…)
Well, as it happens, the conversation moved on to us discussing our experiences with Bhuddism… Something we had both studied… I left the conversation pondering the subject of death… Not because I was having flashbacks to my indie-goth teenage years… Or because the lady in question had bored me to the brink… But because we had discussed the profound nature of meditating on death as you do in some forms of Bhuddism… I know that many other schools, such a types of Shamanism believe there is much value in pondering death, or near-death experiences… Let me explain further…
“Life without pain has no meaning.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer
Rather than just refuting Mr Schopenhauer… There are many trains of thought that I beleive worthy of investigating here… I think it is true to say that meaning can be found in the most unlikely of places, no?
The vast majority of the time, my peers and I offer up methods, training, strategies and processes for living a joyful life… Western forms of personal development and certainly the fields of self-improvement that I am mostly involved in seem reluctant to discuss death… Or entertain it in any way. Is it really that gloomy and negative to consider it?
I belive that it is not exclusively the joyful things that help us feel that our lives matter and mean something; often it can be the more painful things.
It’s a bit of a paradox, isn’t it? The more you thrive on life, explore it, and invest yourself in it, the more you love those around you, the more you take the prescribed pathways of modern personal development and start vigourously loving your own existence… the more you risk losing when death comes calling in one way or another.
At the same time, if you do not allow yourself to love strongly, fully, and fearlessly, life can be empty and just a shallow imitation of what it could be. I encounter many people that live in fear of losing love — so do not invest themselves in rewarding relationships, or let themselves shy away from loving strongly.
So when we consider death, one of the things that has stuck with me is the profound question of why we care about what happens after people die. We are often told — perhaps as a means of offering comfort — that they are in a better place… And we have connotations that make us thoughtful of what has happened to them when they are no longer with us.
It does beg the question that I read on another blog this week — “why isn’t this life enough?”
That said, I am lured into that way of thinking from time to time. I certainly would not want to be without the people I love, I want those special connections to carry on through my entire life. It is those people that I think of first when I consider what gives my life meaning… The absence of them would be painful, just knowing that is pain of sorts, isn’t it? So perhaps Schopenhauer was on the right lines to an extent.
This Valentines day, in the middle of all the crappy weather we’ve been having here… The sun shone brightly. katie and I walked along the beach in one of our favourite places, where the sea, the countryside, clifftops, views and beach all meet… We have been so lucky, the sun has shone so brightly for us on the days that we have wanted to… Including our wedding day — the hottest day of the year at the time, preceded by weeks of endless rain!
We had been lying in bed in the morning, reading the messages in our cards for each other… As we walked and talked and laughed in the sun, I was overwhelmed and awestruck by the powerful simplicity of the love we shared. The thought of ever being separated from that is unbearable.
Sooo… Would death be an easier thing to face if I didn’t have my wife to share it with? Perhaps… Well, I reckon so. Some think of death as the simple stilling of our chemical processes if we haven’t managed to reach beyond our self in life.
I think that if we haven’t taken the risk to truly and lovingly enter the lives of others and not allowed the vulnerability that comes with it to be embraced somewhat… Then aren’t we just strolling around in our dressed up sack of chemicals, fluids, and bones. I have not made that sound appealing have I? That is because I do not find that way of living appealing… Is that living?
One of my early teachers told me on one occasion, ‘the only thing we know for certain about relationships is that they all end.’ Loss of love and the end of relationships do seem to stimulate some amazing works of creativity. If you consider all the fabulous films, poetry, stories, and music that have been created as a result of loss.
I do not want to be gloomy with this, in fact it lifts me somewhat writing this today… I do not think there is anything easy about loss, having experienced it myself… Similarly, there is nothing really easy about reaching out, loving those around us, and so leaving ourselves naked to the pain that death and loss can bring.
Yet, it would seem that is exactly what a life with meaning demands. In my experience in therapy, most people say that they derive most meaning in life from relationships. Yet I also encounter people who don’t get enough time, or fear the pain of losing it before it has begun… or some other strangely rationalised thought process…
Maybe Mystic Meg knows… But I don’t think anyone else truly knows when the end will come, and everyone seems to wish for more time to do more things and share those sentiments when the end has come… And we yearn for that relationship to continue.
Why isn’t this life enough? I think we should spend time making it be so. I don’t shove my cash under the mattress… Although some might think that wise in the current climate… And so I won’t stash my life or my love away there either… Heck, as I was told many times as a youngster — you can’t take it with you.
Share your love. Tell those that you love all that you need to tell them. I think Schopenhauer had a point or two to make… Although I tend to think that meaning is born of loving and living in the face of unavoidable death and loss.
Here is wishing you a wonderful weekend 🙂