Busy Being Born

Bob Dylan once wrote in a song, “That he not busy being born is busy dying.”   After considering that line for some time, I decided to get clear for myself what it means to me to be busy being born.

Imagine contemplating leaving the comfort, safety, and warmth of the womb – pushing through a passageway that seems far too tight so that you can enter into an endless world of unknown.  Of course some part of you realizes that you have become too big for the womb; the only way to continue growing is to push and squeeze through.  In fact, as warm and safe as the womb has been, you instinctually realize you would die if you remain there.

We begin our lives with a leap towards the unknown, towards growth, and towards connection and contribution-we want to make a difference in the world.   Therefore, for me, the unknown, growth (in every sense of the word), connection and contribution are four key aspects of being born.  There are probably other aspects I will uncover, but these four have more than enough terrain to explore for now.

Busy dying might simply be seen as the forgetting or denying of our instinct to move towards the unknown, to grow, and to contribute.

Practicing moving towards the unknown, we can get better and better at it until we are ready to handle the big unknowns.

Can we get better at being born, at moving towards the unknown, until we become comfortable or excited about not knowing and learn to skilfully find our way through the tight spots?  Why not?  A practice like any other, although some unknowns .  If we practice with the smaller unknowns and work our way to the bigger ones, then our death, the physical death of our bodies, can be another exciting movement of being born.  The questions that comes to me now is how can we practice being with the unknown – fodder for a future blog post.

After writing the above paragraphs, I came across a piece of writing from John O’Donahue titled The Question Holds The Lantern in the November, 2009 issue of The Sun magazine, pg 37.  Just the title alone speaks powerfully to me.  I would love to quote the entire piece, but I will keep it to two excerpts, the first from midway through the piece, the second finishes the piece:

When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life.  You leave the kingdom of fake
 surfaces, repetitive talk, and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are
 and who you are called to become.  The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown.  Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control.  We avoid it by filtering
 it through our protective barriers of domestication and control.  The normal way never leads

The journey shows you that from this inner dedication you can reconstruct your own values
 and actions.  You develop from your own self-compassion a great compassion for others.  You
 are no longer caught in the false game of judgement, comparison, and assumption.  More naked 
now than ever, you begin to feel truly alive.  You begin to trust the music of your own soul; you have inherited treasure that no one will ever be able to take from you.  At the deepest level, 
this adventure of growth is in fact a transfigurative conversation with your own death.  And when the time comes for you to leave, the view from your deathbed will show a life of growth
  that gladdens the heart and takes away all fear.

I love the idea that our journey of growth, as O’Donahue describes it, is a transfigurative conversation with your own death.  It’s like having a person in your life that you detest but can’t avoid, like a colleague or neighbour.  Somehow, either through persistent effort or perhaps through a shared crisis, you find kindness for this person, you come to see yourself in this person, and the two of you end up the closest of friends.

Certainly we all have our traumas and wounds to heal, but how much of our anxieties and addictions and conflicts with others are in some part because we are not having our conversations with death?

I wonder if John O’Donahue and Bob Dylan ever swapped inspiring lines and got busy being born together before John O’Donahue passed away.