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
Dates for 2021
We'll meet for 11 day-long meetings, 9.30am-1.30pm (Melbourne, Australia Eastern time) on these Sundays.
14th Feb, 14th March, 11th April, 9th May, 6th June, 11th July, 8th August, 12th September, 10th October, 14th November, 5th December **
Venue: All meetings for 2021 will be held online via Zoom
"Much gratitude for steering the A Year to Live course (2020) through the stormy seas of Covid, in this year of 2020 Anton! Who would have thought? For me it has unfolded as a 'holy' year. A pilgrimage of sorts - with many 'holy' days peppered through this course. Explorations of what it is to be alive, to recognise our limits and be encouraged to grow our humanity. The course has been a mainstay for me. An inspiration on so many fronts.... " Klara
Want to know more? Have a watch of this video of the information session.
The Vision and Objectives
The first thing to keep in here is the title of the course is a "A Year to Live", it doesn't say "A Year to Die"!
Now read on with this in mind.
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 modern culture, few are encouraged to actively contemplate the inevitability of 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.
To provide dedicated lay practitioners with a formal spiritual training structure that will aid in the deepening of individual practice, self-discipline and awareness.
To provide a framework where we open to deeper inner clarity within a relaxed, open, caring community
To cultivate lay practitioners’ conceptual and experiential understanding of the Teachings of the Buddha around awareness of death
To foster a supportive community of ‘kalyānamittas’ (spiritual friends) for like-minded lay people on the path to connect safely
To call in a deeper healing and opening, beyond our usual seeing and knowing
To help connect to a vision for our life that heals the heart and brings joy
To feel our conscious awareness expand into deeper feelings of peace and self love as our hearts soften, become more humble and stronger. As this happens, an easier sharing of yourself and your love more freely and deeply.
"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 'A Year to Live'
Ultimately, this is a year-long practice in forgiveness, gratitude, letting go and resetting what gives us meaning and purpose. We will investigate the ways in which clear caring attention, 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...
Life Review - 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.
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. We don't pretend that things don't hurt or sugarcoat them. We look to allow our pain to be released so we don't carry it or the other person in our hearts unnecessarily.
Purpose - once we realistically review our life, finish business and forgive, we get the chance to reset and connect to what may give our life meaning and aliveness going forward from here, however long we may have.
"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
Your Commitment *
Commit to engaging with the suggestions for practice and group activities for the entire year.
Commit to completing the assignments, practices and readings within the timeframe suggested. (A few hours a week should do it)
Commit to joining at least 9 of the 11 online Zoom meetings. What you get out of the course is what you put into it.
The first meeting is compulsory for all. In this meeting we'll be setting up the safety of the group and the shared agreements needed for that. If you can't make the first meeting, please wait for a future program.
Commit to small group gatherings for the year
* If you can't commit to these, please wait and join us for a future program.
What we provide
11 x Zoom meetings (February to December)
2 x One-One meetings with Anton to check in and support your process within the course. These happen about months 3 and 8.
An online course website that will have monthly meditations, practices, videos and support.
Ongoing small group framework for the duration of the course. You'll be part of the same small group for the entire year. There will be clear guidelines on how to support each other and how to create an atmosphere of kindness and safety.
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 what is offered from the scheduled meetings, this course format may not be a good match at this time. You are encouraged at all times to take responsibility for your own emotional well-being and seek appropriate support as needed. A year long course is a commitment to explore the dharma teachings in some depth so please consider this before signing up. 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 for 2021
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 teacher.
All bookings contain a $100 non-refundable deposit/admin fee.
No refund will be given after 8th February.2021.
Installments - If paying by installments, the first payment happens upon booking. Subsequent payments will be deducted automatically from your account using the credit/debit card you paid with. These payments will happen on 28th February 2021 and 31st March 2021
All installment payments incur an admin fee
This price helps others to join the course on the supported rate below. In 2020 this helped 8 people join the course.
Book Supported rate with 3 installments of $280 (includes admin fee) by clicking here
Need more financial assistance?
Further sponsored rates are possible if this 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: 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. All we are doing is turning towards life with honesty.
Question: How long will the course content be available on the website? Answer: The website for 2021 stays open until December 31, 2021. Hopefully you’ll see by the end of the year that the process is much more important than the content.
Question: How will the group online days be scheduled? Answer: As far as content and delivery goes, it will vary month to month. If you are someone who needs everything scheduled to an inch of its life, this will not be the training for you… If though, you can go with the process and open to the nature of life, aligning yourself with life, you’ll do fine.
Question: How are the small groups run? Answer: The groups are self-facilitated but with the content and guidelines provided. There will be clear teachings provided about how the group process happens to protect safety, stop people dominating or otherwise and to keep everyone on track. The groups are designed to be a place where we can explore the teachings with open hearted, safe encouragement and curiosity. Previous participants have shared how the groups become a wonderful haven and refuge they very much look forward to. Each person plays a role in protecting the space.
When you meet outside of the organised meeting dates, it’s up to the group to work out how they meet.
Question: How often do the small groups meet? Answer: Once a month. How you meet up will be up to the group to decide.
Question: I would like to come to the first session and see if I like it. Can I do this? Answer: No. The first session is the time where we set up the whole program, the groups, the direction, the intention and foundation of the course. Everything proceeds from this session and having people there who are aligned with giving it their best shot seems to work best. There will be an 2 hour intro session in January sometime. Sign up to the newsletter to be notified of the date and how to join.
Some thoughts from people who did A year to Live in 2020
Before joining the AYTL (2020) course, I have a sense, only in hindsight that my inner dharma compass kept pointing to engaging deeper with life to prepare for death, in a way that was beyond the occasional maranasati (awareness of death meditation) session. And in a strange way it came to be that one of the gifts of this course for me has been an accelerated development of a radical inclusivity of all of the parts of me.
Somewhere in the great haystack of hackneyed maxims lives a statement something like “everyone dies but not everyone lives.” True, yes. Yet trite because talk is cheap while taking action can be difficult and costly. In the face of such a gap this course offers a balm for heart and mind alike, gently applied through a deep look at the importance of living life well and fully in preparation for its well-known ending.
Throughout the course there was practical guidance and lifelong practices that encouraged me from my place of being an outer observer of life and into action and living the great question-mystery of life. All of this within the unwavering safe container of Anton’s presence, care, support, and unconditional positive regard. Paul Beaton
Before joining A Year to Live (AYTL 2020), I had known Anton from a previous course and responded positively to his authentic teaching style and ways of creating security so that I could explore my beliefs. I was very keen for AYTL as I had been trying my own death reflection practices and could see the importance of this. However, I had some trepidation at the thought of going inside myself for this long. It can feel easier to keep distracted and to ignore or avoid the inner world. The thought of committing to a course for a year felt quite intense and overwhelming for me. I was a little afraid of spending a year contemplating death and thought this might be quite depressing.
However, I wanted to be a part of a sangha…. I had felt the need for some time to deepen my connection with people with similar values. The fact that the group was held across a year helped me to feel that the connections developed would be deeper and more meaningful. Being at a stage in life where I wanted more….. I felt that there was something missing and I was keen to explore myself and what might be holding me back from feeling connected to my life in ways that were meaningful. I thought that a year to explore my inner world would allow this to happen
The course helped me to remember what is most important to me. Having a regular catch up and contemplative practices allowed me to frequently reflect on how I want to live this life, what matters most and how I get lost in living my most true life. This has led to me feeling more awake and conscious of daily choices and I have felt more content and peaceful as a result of the practices and a deeper understanding of who I really am without the stories and unhelpful beliefs.
The most important outcome of the course is a deeper understanding of how I have limited my life with false beliefs and ways of protecting myself that has led to my heart being closed off to life in some ways – I have seen and explored these stories and parts of myself throughout the course in a very safe way and now feel more open to life and living a life that makes me smile when I consider it.
I loved this course……the content and discussions were rich and deeply life changing. This course, the relationships and the space to truly be myself and be so deeply cared for will stay with me for life. The inquiries taken from the course discussions and learning continue daily for me. I feel incredibly grateful to have experienced this year to live as I now see my precious human life in ways that are profoundly sacred and my heart is open.
As a mentor and teacher, Anton did an incredible job of creating a safe space for all of us. I deeply value Anton’s level of authenticity. It is obvious how much he deeply cares for others.
I feel that my heart has softened, I am living with a deeper understanding of ‘every moment matters and is a chance to live in a way that allows me to feel connected, secure, and peaceful’. There is a place I can always come home to now. The inner work I did throughout the course has enabled me to see so many parts of myself and tend to them so that I feel a deeper contentment in each moment. Dr Rebecca Deering Phd - Clinical Psychologist
Much gratitude for steering the A Year to Live course (2020) through the stormy seas of Covid, in this year of 2020 Anton! Who would have thought? For me it has unfolded as a 'holy' year. A pilgrimage of sorts - with many 'holy' days peppered through this course. Explorations of what it is to be alive, to recognise our limits and be encouraged to grow our humanity. The course has been a mainstay for me. An inspiration on so many fronts and a source of nourishment for any dark days ahead. Stephen Jenkinson said... 'You start being in light and end in wisdom if the gods prevail'. peace, love and joy, Klara Blazevic
Dear Anton, thank you... (re A Year to Live 2020)
For all the thought and efforts that have gone into preparing our monthly meetings
For all the insights and sometimes painful truths
For the encouragement to enjoy life more fully in the present
For the courage to face the future with more understanding and equanimity
For the kindness, openness and patience with which you have guided us through A Year to Live (2020)
For all that you have given me personally over the years - my love and deep appreciation and I am looking forward to continued contact and friendship in the future.... Warm wishes and love, Rena Urbach
Reflections on A Year To Live by Anthea Swann
Application sent with trepidation,
Approach my death with great elation?
Sounds bizarre! Can it be real?
Give it a try, see how I feel.
Session one – we’re in a circle,
For our demise we start rehearsal.
Lunch with my buddy - perfect start,
I hang in there with lighter heart.
Anton said some plan escape.
Is that going to be my fate?
I think I’ll finish what I’ve started,
From my resolve I’ll not be parted
Onto the scene burst Covid virus
In its toils it tried to mire us.
No more circles in which to sit,
It’s zoom zoom zoom . . . we all submit!
Buddying is mostly fun,
Catching people on the run.
Find some time to share and listen,
Gain some insights – that’s our mission.
Let’s be aware of gratitude
For our spirit - vital food.
‘We are enough’ Anton reminds us,
Love one another, with truth and trust.
Forgive ourselves and others too
Lots of love provides the glue.
Meditation - ah! peace within,
Daily practice . . . see us grin!
Months go by . . . we’re getting deeper,
The learning curve is growing steeper.
In my heart I’m moving closer,
As peace of mind I seek to foster.
Am I ready for my death,
Will it soon be my last breath?
Maybe not, but I am ready,
Trust what’s ahead will find me steady.
Thank you Anton, for your wise counsel,
An open heart is quite essential.
New habits on my mind imprinting,
Help me live my life unstinting.
Good luck all, and thank you too!
Together what we have been through,
Should make of us much kinder people
Thankful, of death we’ll not be fearful.