In this faster than our blink-of-an-eye culture, it tenderizes my heart to come across the phrase, “live the dash.” According to the Urban Dictionary, to ‘live the dash’ means; “A shorter way to say live every day to its fullest; on your gravestone, it will show the year you were born and the year you die, in between is the dash. That is the time to live each day to its fullest.” I am struck by the gravity of this meaning.
It is an astonishing journey to cozy up with this inevitable force of death. To make it an ally is a practice of many spiritual and shamanic traditions. In my experience this practice has the effect of bringing everything into sharper focus. It strips everything to bare bones (pun intended) and begs us to live from our highest values. When making a decision, the question I often ask myself is; at the end of my life which choice would I have been glad I made.
The last few months I’ve been having these momentary panic attacks. It feels like the character of death is standing in front of me, staring in my eyes, with arms stretched out, hands gripping my shoulders and shaking me. The figure is now whispering in my ear; “Are you seizing the day? Are you “living the dash?” I am stunned, my breath stops for a few seconds.
These are crushing moments in my heart and psyche. Everything comes into question. “Damn, do I truly appreciate my partner? Did I return a call from a loved one? Was I present with the cashier?” As Mary Oliver has written in the closing lines of The Summer Day, “Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
As I get older, I see the value of giving myself more time and space for following my heart in fun and enriching activities. Yet, so many days are filled with odds and ends of paperwork, emails, taxes, and the minutia. Maybe it would be useful to let go of segregating the mundane from what we would consider the valuable. What if the majorities of activities turned into small acts of presence, love and gratitude?
Some years ago a mentor suggested that when I brush my teeth, I put one hundred percent of my attention on it. At first, this was nearly impossible, now I relish every second of it. There is so much mirth in aiming to wrap the awkward toothbrush around every tooth and so much appreciation for these steady pillars in my mouth. Although I have to say, I have yet to reach that level of joy when flossing.
What if a call with technical support became a meeting of two souls?
What it would be like to acknowledge my ability to type, read, create and connect when I sit down at the computer?
During a recent dinner with a friend, it was so heavenly and gratifying to sink into the pauses between talking instead of trying to fill the empty space. To savor every pause and every morsel of food became deeply fulfilling.
We know that sitting in meditation can have the ability to expand space and time. Something I am exploring lately is to be sitting without formal meditation, yet without distracting myself. There is the initial impulse to grab my phone, but when I can get beyond that moment of discomfort, everything becomes fascinating as I melt into now.
Sometimes I get so disheartened because I forget to live the dash. Patience with myself goes a long way. But what I realized is that this little “I” cannot remember to live life fully. There is something greater than this I that is living this life. It directs my actions and experience. I am grateful when it is mindfully and gleefully dash-ing! There is such delight when there is a remembrance of the preciousness of life.
Five potential ways to persuade you to live-the-dash:
* “Follow Your Bliss” as Joseph Campbell said
* “We Croak” App gives you a few reminders every day that you are going to die.
* Check out this 5-minute beautiful video by the Avett Brothers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFGs7HP15d4
* Create a “bucket list” before you die and then get to it!
* Ask yourself, “What would love do?”
If you are interested in investigating more personal ways to seize the day, please join me for private work or group events. I would be thrilled to assist!