Conscious Completion

Rosie Bell

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Youth is peppered with conspicuous firsts. And unless we’re really trying, life's lasts can tend to sneak past, unnoticed. Your last cigarette may have warranted some ceremony. But what about the last swing you’ll ever sit on? The last pear you’ll eat? The last time you’ll watch [your favorite movie] with any real enthusiasm? [...] What about the last time you read your favorite book? How lovingly will you peel your last carrot?

We often take a hierarchical approach to love and meaning – from the inner to the outer circles of the heart, allocating significance to our experiences accordingly. Yet when I imagine seeing the man who repairs my boots for the very last time, what pathos the occasion takes on. I might feed a horse, pat her velvety nose and wander off – but what if I knew she was the last horse I’d ever see? There’s something in my eye, just imagining it. Perhaps proximity to ‘lasts’ affords us an important glimpse of how unsettlingly marvelous it is to be doing or seeing anything at all. Conscious completion allows us to look back across the finite set of moments and realize that each was as significant as the other – that is to say, absolutely, fundamentally significant. “These are the days of our lives”, a very clever man once said. Boy did he really, really know what he was telling us.

We adaptively goal-oriented humans aren’t typically in the business of noticing life, while it’s happening. It is simultaneously our superpower and the greatest tragedy of our existence.

When I was little, my Dad worked in forests, and I often spent my school holidays playing in them. I particularly remember a fantastic house I once made out of sticks. I was so absorbed in construction that by the time it was perfect, it was also time to get in the car and go home. I never even sat in it. I would like to say that back then I was simply in flow and in nature, enjoying the journey with no thought for the destination. But I suspect that even by age 8 I had acquired precisely the opposite habit – becoming so lost in a plan for the future that I forgot to crawl into the beautiful, imperfect present and make the most of it.

Periodically you will read a blog written by or about a young stranger who is dying or dead, urging you to learn from their experience and live life to the fullest, holding your darlings close and appreciating every last cup of tea for the exquisite mystery that it really is. The piece will be viral and you will be among millions to read it, feel momentarily inspired, and then [forget about it]. If you are lucky enough to survive a deadly illness, your own path may yield similar insights. In my experience, these likewise will fade all too quickly. If you live long enough, people you love – perhaps people who are too young to die – will die. When this happens, the intense preciousness of mundane, normal old life will become so painfully clear that you know you will never forget again.

And you might not.
But actually, you still might.

Seeing something isn’t the same as learning it. Anything we want to learn, we are obliged to practice. Contemplative traditions are very clear on this. The insight we gain through peak life experiences doesn’t sustain itself. That’s why the practical purpose of meditation isn’t to hang out permanently in bliss but to willfully rehearse the insights you gained when you were in that altered emotional or cognitive state. Fortunately, we don’t have to sit with our eyes closed in order to practice our love of life (or intentionally recall the occasions when we were thunderstruck by the weirdness of being a conscious entity, pottering around on a planet and cutting our creepy toenails [...] as if it was no big deal.) We are free to take note of the giant miracle we’re living in as often as we want. The more we do so, the closer we weave the fabric of an enchantment that is our most precious inheritance. Through practice alone, the road less traveled becomes the way we meet the world, and then life is sacred, even when you are emptying the dishwasher, or the cat has been sick on the rug.

Every last is a small death, and death itself little more than the last last of all. The more vividly we are able to honor both, the better our chances of really knowing life as it is happening. One day all too soon we will say goodbye to each other and to life for the very last time. But hopefully it won’t be the first time we have really noticed how suspiciously magical it was to be here together, ever, at all.

Rosie Bell went from being an opera singer to copywriter to mindfulness teacher. Along the way, she's "taken time out from assorted careers to survive cancer a few times." Excerpted above from 'Death and Sprinting.'

Seed questions for reflection: What does conscious completion mean to you? Can you share a personal story of coming in touch with life through a conscious completion? What helps you remember to take note of the giant miracle you are living in?

Add Your Reflection:

11 Previous Reflections:

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    On Nov 11, 2021 NAREN KINI wrote:
    A wise one once said, "Live every moment as if it were your last". Many have a hard time accepting it. It is a pessimistic perspective to life they argue. The passage lets us peel layers of this saying and actually realize that it helps you relish every moment for you almost always save your best for the last. What if each moment deserves your best, would that not be an invertendo principle of saving the bset for the last? Even when does deep into meditation, many think they gain something while actually most of them lose the need to hurry, plan, become impulsive, judge etc., In essence just the process of a deep meditation helps an individual get into a meditative state for the rest of the day. Which raises their awareness level, expands their consciousness and hence helps relish each moment in life - giving your very best as if it were your last.

    1 reply: Gururaj | Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 10, 2021 Gururaj wrote:
    Becoming or Being. Giving significance to "me" or to "life" . The "or" could become "and" , I glimpse , when an awareness of breathe ,as it courses in and out, and which could be the last , is practiced....
    Let us get the full juice of life , have the cake (of becoming) and eat it ( the impression of the instant) too...
    Thank you Rosie Bell. Thank you Awakin.org

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 9, 2021 Nino wrote:
    I have experienced it so many times, but I will never forget my first one. I was still a kid and I had a dream that my father died. He was someone I loved the most and the dream made me realize thathe would not be with me forever. It made me think about it deeply. I remember I closed my eyes and thought if it was the last day with him, what would I remember about him and all I saw was him coughing. Back then my father used to smoke a lot and he was coughing often. In that very moment I understood that there was he, a person I loved the most and I did not know him well enough. From that moment I started living differently, more consciously. Life is weird. I was so scared to lose him that I stopped remembering dreams, because some of tem became true before. Then years passed. Many things happened and for some time my relationships with him were not so good. When I was on 5th month of my pregnancy, one day I visited him and we talked, just like we used to before and first time after few y... [View Full Comment] I have experienced it so many times, but I will never forget my first one.
    I was still a kid and I had a dream that my father died. He was someone I loved the most and the dream made me realize thathe would not be with me forever. It made me think about it deeply.
    I remember I closed my eyes and thought if it was the last day with him, what would I remember about him and all I saw was him coughing. Back then my father used to smoke a lot and he was coughing often. In that very moment I understood that there was he, a person I loved the most and I did not know him well enough. From that moment I started living differently, more consciously.
    Life is weird. I was so scared to lose him that I stopped remembering dreams, because some of tem became true before.
    Then years passed. Many things happened and for some time my relationships with him were not so good. When I was on 5th month of my pregnancy, one day I visited him and we talked, just like we used to before and first time after few years we agreed. That evening he hugged me twice, that has never happened before. It was the last time I saw him alive, because the next day he died.
    Already more then ten years passed from that day, but I still can feel his hug and thinking about it still makes my eyes watery.
    Without that dream I would not be who I am now, because it changed the way I saw things.[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Nov 9, 2021 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
    This pandemic has clearly brought lessons into my life (and others I suspect) about deeply noticing and appreciating "lasts." The last travel to another country in the before time. The last time I shared Free Hugs in a busy town square, the last time I hugged people without any anxiety. This pandemic has been a gift in some ways, a profound reminder of the lasts we are experiencing while being alive. And if we choose, a beautiful opportunity to appreciate seemingly mundane moments ever so much more. I will never underestimate the the glory of a HUG.

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 9, 2021 Patrick wrote:
    ‘Abide’ is indeed a beautiful word. It connotes a sense of humility, contentment and whole-hearted surrender to love. }:- a.m.

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 9, 2021 Anilkumar Pandit wrote:
    Indulge in everything with the joy as if it is the First-time.
    Then even if it were the last thing, it does last for ever.

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 9, 2021 Edith Bird wrote:
    As a pastor for 35 years, I have had this experience many times, realizing this was the last time I would see a person, or be with a group of people on a holy-day. I remember vividly visiting a woman who was dying and she said, "I just didn't realize that that was my last Christmas Eve singing carols with y'all in church." Such a painfully sweet moment as we both remembered that night, and sang Silent Night softly together.

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 9, 2021 Annonymous wrote:
    If it is true that we can never dip our feet in the same river because it changes with every moment, isn't our every first also our every last? So what, if you did not get a chance to sit in the imperfect little house that you built, if you enjoyed building it while you were doing so, weren't you living in the moment?

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 6, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    It's seldom that you know that you're having an experience for the last time. I'm aware that all of life consists of firsts since no two experiences are exactly the same and every experience is the last time, so it is valuable to live many experiences as though you were doing them for the last time. That's similar to live each day as if it were your last. If a person dies young or old, he can live with conscious completion. Getting old plays a big part in my being increasingly aware that any activity I do I may be doing for the last time,and that helps me to sometimes savor the moment with conscious completion and be aware of the giant miracle we live in. Small death is constantly happening, and we would do well to enjoy greater conscious completion ongoingly. Conscious completion doesn't make anything sacred; it is because everything is sacred that it makes sense to live with conscious completion.

    Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 5, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    To live fully in the present moment without dwelling in the past or worry about the future is a wise way of living. Be here and now is the enlightened way of living. Going with the flow of life and not flowing against it the way living life fully. When I engage myself in any activity I get fully absorbed in it. My mind is not drifting but is fully rooted in the present moment. This way of living my daily life is a blessing for me. I complete my assignment fully and thatway I do not get an incomplete grade. I love the way Rosie Bell puts it. We become "so lost in a plan for the future that I forget to crawl into the beautiful, imperfect present and make the most of it.This is the way I relate to Conscious Completion. Living each moment fully is the way of living with unburdened freedom from space and time. These are of the "moments of the giant miracles." When I meditate I feel the presence of conscious completion. When I listen to chanting, relate to nature and be with ... [View Full Comment] To live fully in the present moment without dwelling in the past or worry about the future is a wise way of living. Be here and now is the enlightened way of living. Going with the flow of life and not flowing against it the way living life fully. When I engage myself in any activity I get fully absorbed in it. My mind is not drifting but is fully rooted in the present moment. This way of living my daily life is a blessing for me. I complete my assignment fully and thatway I do not get an incomplete grade. I love the way Rosie Bell puts it. We become "so lost in a plan for the future that I forget to crawl into the beautiful, imperfect present and make the most of it.This is the way I relate to Conscious Completion. Living each moment fully is the way of living with unburdened freedom from space and time. These are of the "moments of the giant miracles."

    When I meditate I feel the presence of conscious completion. When I listen to chanting, relate to nature and be with someone I deeply love I feel the presence of the flow of consciousness. When my mind is distracted I crawl into the present.

    Self-awareness is the master key for me for entering in the house of conscious completion.The light of awareness brings me back to the path of living fully in the present moment. Living this way requires conscious determination, patience, perseverance, compassion and devotion. Such way of living creates giant miracles in living.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave








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