As you read this, I will be heading into a reunion of my Year To Live group. 10 of us from Spirit Rock Meditation Center met for a year in 1998, led by Bonnie Jonsson in doing the exercises suggested by Stephen Levine in his book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last. Stephen Levine is one of the most revered teachers about death and dying in the world. Everyone was catalyzed into profound life transformations from the process of pretending that you know that you have one year to live, and sharing exercises together in life reviews, gratitude and forgiveness meditations, preparing to let go by letting go of possessions and beliefs, writing our own eulogies, and hearing what others would say about us at our memorial service, then spending a weekend together in rituals of dying (creating clay figures of ourselves that we cast into the ocean, resting in silence until the next morning) and re-birth into our new sense of life and possibility.
One of our members, Jane Futcher, wrote Women Gone Wild about the catalytic effect of the YTL group on her decision, with her partner Jane, to move off the grid to ruggedly beautiful and undeveloped land in Mendocino County, CA. The release of the book is what triggered the reunion this coming weekend, on the land where Jane and Erin have built a beautiful home and new life.
One of the suggested exercises from Year to Live is to do a life review. What has carried you forward on your journey? Has anything derailed you from pursuing your dreams? What could you change today or tomorrow to recover those dreams and commit to them? What business remains unfinished between you and others? With whom do you need to make amends, to offer or receive forgiveness? Who do you wish to tell you love them? Pick up the phone and tell them now.
Our group continued to meet for 8 years after that initial Year To Live year. And all of us found our way to new horizons, new strengths, new courage, new ways to engage and deepen the meaning of our lives. May even the reflection on “waking up” to as yet unfilled dreams be useful to you and yours.
A Year To Live: How To Live This Year As If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine. Crown Publishers, 1997