I purchased Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live a few years ago, after it was recommended by a teacher and friend of mine. The book is a 175 page guide to living as though you know you will die in 365 days. It begins with the author’s reason for writing the book. Levine, a teacher and meditation guide, has worked with many people with terminal illnesses and he reports having seen many people really begin to live the lives they’ve always dreamed of after receiving the diagnosis. So, he proposes that his readers “practice dying.”
“Having observed the renewal that occurs for so many people because their natural wisdom inspires them to open more profoundly to life, I offer an experiment that amplifies your potential for healing by living the next year as if it were your last.”
He then expounds on his theory for a few pages before offering a series of meditation techniques interspersed with the author’s reflections on death and renewal. Theoretically, I am incredibly driven to try this, to live this year as though it were my last. I have read this book a few times, and although I have not fully engaged the techniques outlined, I do believe that the premise is important to share. When a person accepts the fact that death is eminent, waiting for us all, an obvious thought that is often pushed mechanically out of the mind due to fear, an amazing opportunity for personal reflection is spurred.
I have not yet mastered the act of meditation; in other words, the result of my personal experimentation with this exercise has not come to fruition. However, the idea of this book is awesome, it seems driven by a kind sentiment: that we needn't wait for a terminal illness to live the way we would if we were given a deadline (sorry, really bad pun). I recommend this book, but I have to wonder, how many people would use the sense of urgency to act out, to go binge drinking or whoring around, to over-consume or act impetuously, without reserve or empathy?
It’s an interesting sentiment, one that causes me to recommend this book with a disclaimer: those that have a tendency toward self-destructive or reckless behaviors probably shouldn’t try this. For those that have a clear dream, who have their priorities in place but have failed to act, feared trying, I think this book might make you think… perhaps act.
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