A Year to Live - Living this year as if it's your last
“You have to remember one life, one death, this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the inbreath or outbreath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it, all the mindfulness we can muster for each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity." Stephen Levine
Bookings are now closed
Dates for 2020
We'll meet for 11 day-long meetings, 10am-5pm on these dates.
8th Feb, 15th March, 26th April, 10th May, 14th June, 5th July, 2nd August, 30th August, 4th October, 8th November, 6th December **
Online: 10 online monthly meetings dates and times TBC.
Bargoonga Ngangin, 182 St Georges Rd, Nth Fitzroy
Scroll down this page for booking links
The first thing to consider here is the title of the course... It's a "A Year to Live", it doesn't say "A Year to Die"!
Now read on with this in mind.
The next is that since the banner image above was selected, the bush-fires have come with a ferocity we've never experienced before. It was never intended to reflect that reality but now that is here with the inherent implications for all of us, it seems that this course has even greater relevance.
This year-long program, based on the book A Year to Live by Stephen Levine * is designed for people of all ages, regardless of life stage. In community, we will focus on waking up and living life more fully through the exploration of death as spiritual practice.
In our largely death-denying modern culture, few are encouraged to actively contemplate the inevitability of our death, or that it could happen at any time. The Buddha recommended that we do just that, not to frighten us, but to use death as an object of contemplation to help us awaken to the fragile, fleeting, and precious nature of our lives.
"Remember that the ever-present luminosity into which our ever-impermanent density dissolves, is the light of awareness by which consciousness is seen, our essential nature which never dies. This one year, last-year life experiment is not some morbid undertaking, quite the reverse. It does not invite death but rather encourages completion before dissolution. Although some suicidal niche in the mind might become enamoured with the prospect of dying and welcome its demise at the end of the year, such old-mind tendencies invite close examination. They are that part of us which would rather die than face, much less heal our pain. They are the all too familiar feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy, which when they are investigated, remind us of why so many parts of our life remain unlived. The one-year life experiment is a remedy for, not an indulgence of such life-denying tendencies. In the course of its daily application, life becomes more vibrant and appreciated. It can be vital medicine for so many aspects of ourselves that have become breathless and numb." Stephen Levine from AYTL
Ultimately, this is a year-long practice in forgiveness, gratitude and letting go. We will investigate the ways in which clear care, both internally and relationally, open the way to a life of freedom and joy. This is the embodiment of the Buddha’s essential teachings as taught in Insight meditation, Hakomi and Taoism. Through guided meditations, inquiry and small group discussions, we will be guided, with the support of community, through a process of living this year as if it were our last.
Topics covered will include:
Catching up with your life, Fear of dying, Noticing, A Commitment to Life, Life Review, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Altaring your life, Living in the Body, With Death just over my Shoulder, Letting go of Control, Who Dies?, After Death experiences, Beyond the House of death, Reincarnation, Finding the Lotus before Winter, A Good Day to Die, Aging, completing with others and more...
An example from the topic Life Review is.... Here we experience the full range emotion: outrage at the burdens others have put on us, shame at the burdens we have placed on others, gratitude for the gifts received and joy for the gifts we've given. The process is one of meeting the good times with gratitude, and the bad times, after the anger and sadness has been thoroughly explored in the same way we might meet fear.... with increasing forgiveness, soothing and release.
An example from the topic Forgiveness is.... Forgiveness renews life by finishing unfinished business. Even an unsuccessful attempt at forgiveness has the considerable power of its intention.... Forgiveness does not condone unkind actions, but it does embrace the momentary actor whose unskillful ways led to pain. It does not condone theft, but simply addresses the broken heart of the thief.
"We can not take your pain away. I'm not even sure we would be doing you a favour in some ways if we did just take it away. But we're not capable of doing that. But what we can do is share with you the tools, means of investigating this grief we all carry, all the time. What we will be doing is investigating the pain in our heart as a means of opening more profoundly to this very instant in which we are alive. No matter what this instant holds, whether it's fear, anger or boredom, or dread, or the sadness beyond measure which we call grief. We can't take your pain away.... it comes with birth. But we all have the capacity to enter so profoundly into our heart, into the enormity of that space, that even great grief like the loss of a lover, the loss of a child, the loss of a mate, the loss of a parent... and on it goes.... that we can have room for that pain in our heart." Stephen Levine
What you get
11 - full retreat days. 10 - Online meetings with the teachers. 2 - One-One meetings with one of the teachers to check in and support your process within the course. These happen about months 3 and 9. An online course website that will have monthly meditations, practices, videos and support. Ongoing small group support from your friends on the course. Clear and practical guidelines on how to share with each other in a way that supports your enjoyment and safety while you support the joy and safety of others. Encouragement to take on a project where we help others, our community and our land. This could be volunteering, running a workshop, class or course, planting trees, being an activist for change or anything else you have in mind that feels inspiring. Big changes start with small acts. Being part of a group dedicated to helping each other live this year as if it's your last.
Please note: If you are in the midst of a life trauma, emotional upheaval or instability that might require individual support beyond the scheduled meetings with teachers, this course format may not be a good match at this time. Should you have any questions about this please contact us via email.
“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.” “So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”
Bookings are closed
We offer a sliding scale for this course to help cater for the vastly different levels of income in our world and at the same time to make sure our costs are well covered with some left for the teachers. Costs for this course include admin (replying to emails, processing payments, distribution of course materials etc), website costs, Credit card booking fees (1.8% of all bookings), venue fees, printing and stationary, insurance etc.
All bookings contain a $100 non-refundable deposit/admin fee.
No refund will be issued 3 weeks or less from program start, or after the program has started.
Instalments - If paying by instalments, the first payment happens on booking. Subsequent payments will be deducted from your account using the credit/debit card you paid with. These payments will happen on March 1st, 2020. April 1st, 2020 and final payment on May 1st, 2020.
Benefactor rate - $990. Helps others to join the course on the Supported rate. Can be paid fully on booking or with 4 monthly instalments of $260.
Standard rate - $850. This rate covers the basic running costs of the course. Can be paid fully on booking or with 4 monthly instalments of $225.
Supported rate - $650. For anyone who feels they cannot afford the standard rate. This applies to concession card holders, unemployed and people on very low income. Can be paid fully on booking or with 4 monthly instalments of $175.
Need more assistance?
Further sponsored rates are possible if this even feels inaccessible. Over the years I have been the recipient of tremendous generosity from various dharma teachers and I welcome your inquiry. We would not want these prices to be a barrier for anyone to come on the course and we want to remind you that you are always welcome to request financial help.
Please apply as early as possible for financial assistance. Applications in the 7 days leading up to the close of bookings will not be considered.
Over 20 years ago, I was working at Gaia House in England and came across a couple of books by Stephen Levine in the library there "Who Dies" and "A Gradual Awakening". He had worked extensively with his good friend Ram Das and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross with death and assisting people with dying. I found myself attracted to the raw, openness of his writing and teachings and purchased these books which have remained in the bookshelf to this day.
"A Year to Live" was released around 1997 and with some enthusiasm I decided to give this experiment a try. Looking back, it helped ease me into a much deeper process that continues to unfold. This process is touched on in the book and paraphrased here it says "don't rush over the heaviest memories and herniate yourself with anger, guilt and shame. Build a foundation of gratitude, appreciation and mindfulness before exploring the possibilities and release inherent in forgiveness. Begin with the all-too-numerous resentments and complaints. Let's explore the ache in our heart and the cultivation of compassion for not only our pain, but the pain we all share."
Question: Do I have to sit on the floor on a meditation cushion during the retreat days? Answer: No. There will be more than enough chairs to sit on. We encourage you to find a posture in meditation that allows you to be comfortable, relaxed and alert.
Question: I've never meditated before & I'm worried it will be too much. Answer: There will be meditation but mostly this be an exploration of what it means to be human and in community with others. In this program, there's no commitment to a certain amount of meditation per day. Having said that, we urge you to look at how committed you are to examining what the course may bring up for you.