The Workshop of Life Story and Spiritual Healing III

Will you be ready when the time has come? Every birthday is a reminder to us that we are getting closer to our time of death. How do we face death with joyfulness? What should we do? What can we do? The topic of this workshop is “Facing Life and Death with Joyfulness”. The host, Professor Aries Gu, lead all participants starting from looking at life itself, finding out the meaning of life, thinking in depth about our value of life, and finally, how to live happily.

In the beginning of the workshop, students were divided into groups of three and started introducing themselves and explaining their reasons for participating in this workshop. After the initial introduction, Professor Gu started to call out names of participants. The one being called on had to stop talking immediately and find another spot to be on herself. The purpose of this exercise was to let people experience that life can end anytime. When the time comes, we can no longer have any connection with others. Even though we still have doubts and regrets, we will not have any chance to get a reasonable explanation or compensation.

Next, Professor Gu asked students to focus and pay attention to themselves. Then, students were asked to call out their own manes. In different stages, everyone was calling out in different tones, sometimes soft and steady and sometimes sonorous and powerful. The students mentioned later that when they were calling out their own names in different tones, they could see different pictures in their minds. One woman was reminded of her mother’s voice calling her home for dinner when she was little, and another gentleman recalled the experience when his boss at work was scolding him. During the process, everyone brought up different feelings and experiences. Our names are not only symbolic marks, but also our connections to the different states and stages of our lives.

The third activity in the morning was a taste of the “Bardo” or intermediate state . The students were asked to lie down on the floor, listening to ethereal music and relax their minds and bodies. When they heard the instruction from the professor, they started to get up slowly and walked freely around the room. The “Bardo” state is a Buddhist term referring to the stage in-between life and death. After death and before rebirth, our lives do not simply disappear. Our souls and karmas still exist. In this waiting, searching, vagrant, and floating state, we can still see other people, but we can no longer communicate with them. Professor Gu lead the students to think about “If somebody was calling for you during this time, who would they be? How would they call you? How would you feel when they called you?” In this activity, the students thought about the important people in their lives. They hoped that others would not feel sad for their leaving, and they can part with blessings.

In this workshop, professor Gu placed epitaphs of eight great historical men in the room. This was to guide the students to put a headline or an annotation for their own lives and then write down their own epitaphs. Some students wrote “Return to tranquility and peace”, “To think and to search”, “I let go of everything and did not look back to the world and the past”, “Loving yourself makes yourself and the people around you happy, Love xxx”, “Goodbye! Thank to those who loved me and treated me nicely, also thank to those who treated me not so nicely. Be nice to the earth!”  Through the process of sharing, examining, and defining, the students were able to see the core value of their lives again.

The morning workshop ended after these activities and exchanges. In the afternoon session, Professor Gu guided the students to write down their own life experiences and progress, and then, to create their life maps. The life maps would enable them to look back to their lives and mark down those important people, events, times, locations, and matters, and classify them into different categories. Professor Gu then asked the students “When the end of the world is coming, what are the 10 reasons that you should be chosen to get on Noah’s ark? What do we need after the catastrophe?”, “If you think you should not get on the ark, what kind of people should get on?” After some heated discussions, the participants were able to reach some consensus. They agreed that some of the important characteristics that should be carried onto the ark were people with stable minds and in good health, who are content and grateful, who possess leadership skills, who are warm and passionate, and who specialize in agriculture and livestock farming. Finally, participants sat in a circle and shared with everyone their recent moments of happiness. One said it was this morning when he woke up with the nice aroma of coffee, another commented it was having dinner with her family, someone also mentioned it was going for a walk with his old mother in the park. Everyone was made to realize that if we can pay more attention to our lives, happiness is everywhere!

In this workshop, Professor Gu directed and accompanied everyone to arrange, listen, examine and recall their life stories and experiences. The day ended with participants sharing what they had learned in the workshop, and everyone went home full of happiness. (Reported by Huang Shih-Ting)