Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No regrets

In my workshop "Making Death Your Ally", which I was supposed to lead in Ann Arbor last weekend but then couldn't, as our world stopped, I guide participants into a close-up encounter with a personal Death. You are required to imagine yourself at the moment when Death comes for you. Your Death will ask you a series of questions starting with this: "What do you most regret not having done in your life?"   
    Another question is: "What is the moment you most regret when your courag
e failed you?"
    The idea is that - if you are given a life extension - you will make a definite undertaking to do the thing left undone, or demonstrate the courage that failed you before, so that eventually you can pass on without regrets on these and other counts. You will find the full questionnaire in my book Dreamgates.
    Now that regular life has been paused for so many of us, I find it very helpful to reflect deeply on questions like this. The importance of the two that I quoted was confirmed when I chanced again just now on a list of the main regrets of the dying compiled by Australian palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware from her many years of experience in this field. The top regret on her list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
    Other regrets of the dying that Bronnie itemized in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying included these: "I wish I hadn't worked so hard. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish that I had let myself be happier."
    Montaigne advised us that since we do not know where Death is waiting for us, we must be ready to meet Death everywhere. It is not morbid to hold that thought in a time of pandemic. If we can find the courage to meet our personal Death and make it our fierce intention to live and die without regrets, we bring courage and clarity to all of our choices.

Photo: "Night palms on the Island" by Robert Moss

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