As human beings we are never static. Being always leads to becoming. We are always in movement. We are always dealing with existence and non-existence. Sheldon Kopp Ph.D., a psychotherapist, demonstrates this point in his book, Here I am, Wasn’t I.
Everyday, we have a chance to practice the small deaths, for each moment is a small death leading to a new life. Every day we have opportunities to ask ourselves: How do I engage with this moment? How do I engage with the reality that life and death are always competing within me? This is good practice for the big letting go of life that happens when we die the big death. Even this "big death" can be viewed as a letting go of one kind of life, in order to move into another kind of life.
The thing we work with here and now, is letting go of the moment we have and moving into the unknown life of the next moment. Being open to the unknown can be very scary because there are no guarantees. I believe this is where creativity comes from — the place in between the known and the unknown.
When I embrace death, both the small deaths of everyday moments and the big death that comes at the end of mortal life, I can be more present with each lived moment. I am letting go of existence in order to move into the next moment of existence. Ultimately we don’t have a choice about this process happening. The choice we have is how we engage with the process. Do we accept and embrace or resist and despair?
After 30 years of living in my home where my wife and I raised our daughter, we are looking to move in order to downsize. I feel sad, nervous, and vulnerable about leaving the house I have lived in with many pleasant memories. I also feel a sense of excitement and anticipation about how it will be living in a new venue with different neighbors. Will I be able to stay open to both my sadness and excitement and appreciate how they shift over time? Will I be able to allow for other experiences as they emerge? This is an example of life and death in every moment.
When I embrace life and death in every moment, it makes life richer because it is more vital. I am not denying that death is part of being human. In fact, accepting that I am going to die both small and big deaths, allows me to look at how I can most fully live my life. Irv Yalom M.D., an existential psychotherapist, emphasizes this point in his books, Existential Psychotherapy and Staring at the Sun.
All of life is included in the present moment. It does not deny my past or my future. It includes the past and what I have learned from it. It includes the future and how it is informed by my present passion. Thus every moment contains what has already been and what might become.
I end off now with a small death as I finish this blog. I am both relieved and sad that it is complete. I move into the unknown of wondering what my next blog will be.