A friend of mine who is recovering from cancer commented recently that the illness tends to bring on enlightenment. It's a funny thing to say, but it does stand to reason. Facing the possibility of premature death tends to throw one's whole life into perspective. ‘Am I ready to die?’ is a question that springs to mind. For a spiritual being, it should be a question we ask ourselves daily anyway.
It's like that conversation I used to have at dinner parties that started: if you had a year to live and had no money or health worries, what would you do? Laurence LeShan poses it in his workbook in Cancer as a Turning Point. He found that even terminally ill cancer patients, when encouraged to find their deep passion and zest for a vocation, often stifled, made remarkable recoveries from cancer, or at least had a more fulfilling end to their life. Personally, I've always just tended to do what I wanted to do in life anyway, so there's not much I regret not doing. But I managed to come up with a short list and plan to add to it over time. MORE OF: laughing, happiness, intimacy, friendship, adventures, food growing, holistic beekeeping, dancing, travel to exotic places (well, that will have to be by freighter). START: reading about Einstein, learning to play the cello. LESS OF: chores. It seems like such a sparse, undemanding list, given the opportunity to have my dreams come true. But it is what it is.
If it is possible to be frog-marched down the road to enlightenment, I suspect it might go something like this. Gratitude: As I wrote last week, whatever time remains appears more intense. Little details seem like tailor-made miracles. Judgement and reactions: So what? Life really might be too short. Even those nasty people who are trashing my planet are, to me now, simply ignorant; let it all go. Bad habits: Stuff that; I want to live my remaining days to the full, not lost in a cloud. Forgiveness: It's physically much easier to say sorry than to bear a grudge. Living in the moment: More than ever, so much of the busy-ness we call life and where we put our energies seems rather a waste of time. I can't even work myself up into a lather about the credit crunch; faced with possible death, both the voice of the news and even the voices in my head seem tedious. What remains are the core values that we all live with; love, truth, hope, happiness, which, like the vegan-esque diet I've been on, contributes to a rather curious lightness of being.