Part 3 of 4 Click Part One or Part Two if you missed either section!
Live like we’re dying, a short recap: We spend so much time search for meaning; wondering why we are here and what do we have to offer. Friends, the answers are within us. If we spend time in authentic self-reflection and introspection, we will recognize that all along, we’ve had the power.
How many of you are walking through life in a fog or feel strangled by the mundane and suffocating day in and day out routine? Are you feeling as though something is missing? Perhaps you are consistently busy with work, family and friends but experiencing a sense of ordinary or mediocrity that is more overwhelming than the chaos itself? Are there things you want to experience but can’t due to a real (or perceived) lack of resources? I’m certain we all have these feelings or situations at one time or another.
Part two ended with the directive to set our alarms and wake each day with purpose. How many of you are doing just that? If not, let’s dive further into living like we’re dying.
This discovery process is active, fluid and dynamic and certainly one which we can and should master before we find ourselves on our deathbeds. This process must be part of our daily practice (remember, we could be hit by that bus tomorrow, so we best get started).
From Pillow Talk II: “You can’t skip chapters, that’s not how life works. You have to read every line, meet every character. You won’t enjoy all of it. Hell, some chapters will make you cry for weeks. You will read things you don’t want to read, you will have moments when you don’t want the pages to end. But you have to keep going. Stories keep the world revolving. Live yours, don’t miss out.”
Frank Ostaseski continues to educate us by saying, “The habits of our lives have a powerful momentum that propels us toward the moment of our death. The obvious question arises: What habits do we want to create? Our thoughts are not harmless. Thoughts [might] manifest as actions, which in turn develop into habits, and our habits ultimately harden into character. Our unconscious relationship to thoughts can shape our perceptions, trigger reactions, and predetermine our relationship to the events of our lives.”
I don’t believe that every thought we have turns into action; it’s the ones we think about over and over and over. Many people are able to control their thoughts and would not act upon anything negative or harmful. Others may need professional help and/or medication to control these thoughts and impulses. You all know how much I speak about getting out of our own heads. As difficult as that can sometimes be, we must learn to not get trapped there. A lot of us can do this work on our own, however, please seek professional assistance as necessary if you are in a place where you no longer feel in control.
Mr. Ostaseski grew up in a violent and abusive household. Because of these experiences, he chose to devote his life to service and healing. While deep into the Zen Hospice Project, he suffered a heart attack followed by open heart surgery. Confronted with his own mortality, he recognized that this “palpable awareness of death vitalizes and clarifies life with such tremendous power.” But his most impassioned insistence is that we need not wait until we ourselves hover on the edge of death to apply its clarifying force to how we live our lives!
The single most powerful [interior] thing that shapes our experience of events is love. Love in the largest possible sense.
“Love beyond marital, filial, national–love that casts a widening pool of light.” ~ Elizabeth Alexander
He writes, “In the horror of my own suffering, I always had held out the hope that one day someone would rescue me. I had imagined that I would be saved by love coming toward me. Just the opposite. I was rescued when love came through me.”
Love isn’t a question, it doesn’t have an answer, love isn’t kissing in the rain, it isn’t necessarily two people together. Love is in the way you wake up in the morning. It’s in the way you know the flaws of others and still accept them completely. Love does not always pass when a relationship ends; if it does, there was no love to begin with. Love is in acceptance, tolerance, compassion, and action; not in a bouquet of roses or box of chocolates.
First Things First–Living Begins With Loving Ourselves
- “Love yourself unconditionally just as you love those closet to you despite their faults.” ~ Les Brown. If we can love others despite their faults, why are we so hard on ourselves?
- In order to live life to the fullest, we have to get over all of the negativity we so often feed ourselves. This is one of the biggest, yet most difficult steps in the discovery process.
- Continually ask, “Does this support the life I’m trying to create?”
- Choose patience: “…even when you are overwhelmed by unknowns. When we can’t get answers, when we begin to wonder why we’re here, when we want to give up: be patient, many things & people are worth the wait.”
- Choose love: “…even when it would be easier to hate. When someone stirs the white-hot rage within you, when they insult you, when they question your worth: be loving. Some people need your love more than you do.” ~ Kirsten J. Robinson (“Above All Else, I Hope You Choose These Things”)
Second–Say Goodbye to the Negativity
- Don’t take things so personally: nothing others do is because of you. What they say or do is a projection of their own reality or dream. One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is when we become immune to the opinions and actions of others. You lessen the chances of becoming a victim and certainly remove needless suffering. I’m not saying that we should never solicit feedback from others (those that we love and are important to us), I’m only referring to those ‘arm-chair quarterbacks’ who are great at criticizing but rarely, if ever, find themselves in the arena getting their asses kicked too.
- Stop assuming: find the courage to ask the tough questions and to express what you want/need. Communication is key, in the way we talk with ourselves and others. Be precise so as to avoid misunderstandings and drama. It’s been said that if we can do just this, we are well on the way to transforming our lives.
- Speak with integrity: say only what you mean. Avoid speaking negatively about yourself and others. Use the power of your word in truth and love.
- Quit taking your shit out on other people. Although it’s easier to cause pain rather than feel it, we must be accountable and own our own shit. No one else deserves to be the victim of our pain. We own it, we sit with it, we learn the lessons, we kick it out of our heads and hearts, we fix ourselves. We, alone, are accountable no matter who else caused us pain. We have the choice to walk away from the toxicity and abuse. The choice is clear: healing, hope and love every day!
- Understand that vulnerability is not weakness. We are taught this at an early age and it does us so much harm. We are raised to believe courage is important; but you can’t have courage without vulnerability.
All of these things show love to ourselves, leading to a beautiful, fulfilling life.
Third–Your Circle of Things, People & Work
Social media has taught us that in order to be important or relevant we need likes, comments and constant positive feedback. We are also taught that we must constantly be busy, often in a job we hate. Then, once home, there are endless chores, children and other work to do. We are thought of as selfish when we want to take much-needed time for ourselves. And guess what, we are passing this on to our children. Sometimes we do this in order to keep our children off of the streets and out of trouble and that’s not a bad idea. However, they are often so overloaded that they are overwhelmed, sleep deprived, stressed and miserable. Already, they are not living fulfilled lives and we can be setting them up for failure. What kind of fulfilling life is this?
We don’t need a vast circle of acquaintances; we need a circle of supportive, caring, loving people that are compassionate to us when we need it and are tough on us when we need to quit our bullshit nonsense. We need to practice self care without guilt and shame. We need to allow our children to be kids by playing (not just video games), being creative and learning to help others. All of these are forms of love. When we allow love to move and work through us, our lives become more fulfilled.
I know the job market is tough (trust me, I know that right now), and it’s scary to think about changing employers when you may be at a good salary with great benefits and substantial vacation time, but none of these things matter if day in and day out, you are going to a toxic culture that is slowly killing you. The Life Manual, the Universe, The Bible, God (whom or whatever) does not tell us to live life in misery.
Choose your circle wisely!
Part Three–In Closing
“This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30 (or 50 or 60), everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their time to grow, to find…themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real, live adults. Then there’s the other kind who are hanging on to college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are okay but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely…they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so live in an extended adolescence, no closure to adulthood than when they graduated.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.
Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have a tried this month?… Do the people I’m spending time with give me life or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”
NOW is your time. Walk closely with the people you love, and with people who believe life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today (and yourself) all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly (authentically) along life’s path.” ~ Relevant Magazine (via wethinkwedream)
It’s time to be winning at life. Winning is not always about coming in first. As Dr. Brene Brown tells us, in Call to Courage, maybe, it’s about doing the really brave thing. Life is hard, scary, risky and dangerous even, but not as scary as getting to the end of life and wondering why we didn’t do any of those things while living. What is the big discovery? Be brave, show up, be seen, come off the blocks and dive into the beautiful life that was meant for all of us. Live Like We’re Dying!
Frank Ostaseski, ”The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully”. Flatiron Books. New York, NY. 2017
Brene Brown The Call To Courage, Netflix Original Series, Sandra Restrepo, Director. 2019