Saturday, December 26, 2009

Life and Death and Life in Death and all that Jazz

If the Christmas season achieves anything at all, it achieves a period of rest for most of us, and if we are lucky, a period of reflection, - sustained reflection if we're exceptionally lucky - on where our individual lives are taking us. In that sense it achieves the purpose of what going on retreat is all about: stepping back from the constant involvement in Doing and just being able to be open to Being. It would seem, to this writer at least, that we need these twin realities in our lives if these latter are to be fulfilling at all. We need both TO DO and TO BE. Too much doing can weary the soul too much. Too much being can lead to all types of self-delusion, egotism, boredom, megalomania or just plain silliness. Each needs to be leavened by the balance of the other. Likewise Life needs to be balanced by Death and Death needs to be balanced by Life. My experiences of life, my studies in psychotherapy, my being both counsellor and counselled, have all taught me that both these realities literally do go together "like a horse and carriage." Or better still like light and dark which we cannot really understand or even have one without the other.

In these reflections, I have been helped by my continued reading of Dr. Irvin D. Yalom's deep, if painful and inspiring by turns, book, Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death,the meditative books of the Dalai Lama and many other books on popular psychology, philosophy and psychotherapy that I have at my disposal. Yalom writes a wonderful chapter in this just mentioned book on his own personal experiences of death and how they have made him the person he is, how they, in fact, have transformed his living into a deeper sense of awareness and appreciation of life.

Above, Life and Death by REDJUICE. This is also an optical illusion!

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