End of summer (vacation) edition

The summer is not over yet… but summer vacation is. People of all ages across the northern hemisphere clutch to these last few days before the narrowness of the darkening time ahead demands our full attention.

There’s a pretty good temptation to stay behind. “You guys go on ahead without me to the next part of the year. I’ll be staying back here at the beach, in the sun… carefree, forever.” 

But we have to stay true. There’s too much richness and too much promise not to stay with the present. It’s where we are meant to be. It takes courage because endings are painful, but we should build our home here in the present, connecting to the flow of time.

Culture and tradition help us mark the endings, reflecting on and honoring all that has passed, helping us move on in search of the miraculous in the new beginning that is built into every ending.


There is quite an amazing power in recognizing the cycles of time in which we live. We, accompanied by nature, cycle through days, through seasons, through periods of our lives, and through the Ages.

We can tap more fully into the future when we take extra effort to mark the passages. A habitual reflection at the end of each day is something I advise. Here’s a description of one way to do it — the Ruckshau meditation (Ruckshau means reflection or contemplative review in German):

The meditation is a simple meditative device that takes 5–15 minutes every evening. Ready yourself by sitting quietly in a comfortable position. Then, carefully review the events of the day, starting with the most recent event and moving backwards to the events of the morning. Attempt to fashion a clear image of yourself as you worked, played, and interacted with others. Conjure in your mind the actual nature of each activity or encounter [including your effect on others]. At the same time, remember what feelings you experienced at the various moments that you recall. Resist all impulses to judge yourself, but rather cultivate a state of detached observation. Watch yourself as you live just as you watch a good friend.

— Paraphrased from The Fourfold Path of Healing by Thomas Cowan MD, (the exercise itself is a repetition of what was taught by Dr Rudolf Steiner)

Famous Last Words

The end-of-life is our most profound ending and is accompanied by great wisdom.

Living in full acknowledgment of the cycle of life, death reveals itself as a great instructor. With good reason, there’s a healthy interest in the lessons that come from knowing death. Interest in famous last words is part of that phenomenon. The end of life is a time when much of the typical motivation in representing oneself is absent. There’s simpleness and realness there. Look at how some of these last words offer a glimpse into the person:

I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

— Leonardo Da Vinci

Friends, applaud. The comedy is over.

— Ludvig van Beethoven

The struggle in being human is on clear display, or maybe the struggle in doing humanity justice. The main question, if we have the wherewithal to ask it, is how to do our part, large or small, “to give purpose to the fulfillment of the cycles of time” (St Paul).

Here’s one more famous last word for you. Again reflecting the person well, I’d say:

“Die? That’s the last thing I’ll do.”

— Groucho Marx

The Long Perspective

More poignant than the famous last words is the perspective from the deathbed. What is important from the perspective of the end-of-life can inform people with life ahead how to live.

In my opinion, there are two main helpful thoughts to know about that are common at the end of life. One is, “I wish I had loved more.”  The petty things that preoccupy us and block us from expressing love and acting out of love are regrettable.

The other is, “I wish I had lived my life.” There’s only one of each of us. Our individual perspective is 100% unique. We know and must remember it’s worth every effort to live a life representative of who we are. Is there enough of us in our life?

Cycles of Time

Central to life on Earth is the phenomenon of cyclical time.

Time’s passage ultimately leads us to a fuller knowing of our own selves, but only if we show up.

We have to learn again and again how to be there in real-time, to keep looking, to keep wondering, and to remind ourselves that we are worth it and that we have options.

Endings and taking time for reflection teach us that life is richer when we engage. To be very involved, to plan, and to put in effort is what rewards us, and maybe brings us a true and lasting taste of satisfaction.