In this crazy time when the world seems to have turned on its head, it's all the more important to keep faith with your vision for yourself by creating and keeping simple daily rituals and habits, but here's an annual 'check in' that can really help keep you on track.
I absolutely love Autumn. To be honest, I can find things to love about each of the four seasons, but Autumn makes me feel reflective and that mood invites me to check in with myself on a much bigger and wider scale.
This year that seems both even more necessary and, at the same time, quite baffling. The world is so far from how it was and it doesn't look like it will ever quite be the same again and that it seems to throw everything up in the air. However, the great thinkers and spiritual teachers of the past have some great lessons for us. They saw enormous upheaval; societal breakdown, violence, war and the collapse of empires, but still managed to hang on to their sense of their significance as individuals and to their vision for their lives.
When I was a priest I knew an elderly bishop who, with his wife, used to sit down every November and revise their funeral service. Now this might seem a bit morbid, but let me tell you as someone who conducts around 250 funerals a year, it can be an amazingly liberating and joyful exercise. You get to squirrel out your favourite music and pieces of writing and imagine how those who love you will enjoy hearing this as they celebrate their unique connection to you. In addition, you get to audit where your life is now and compare that with how you want to be remembered and allow it to invite you to make the appropriate adjustments to your life's course.
So here are some top tips for writing your own funeral service:
First consider the setting: church, crematorium, forest glade, beach or cliff-top?
Secondly, consider who you'd like to lead it and who you'd like to take part.
Then construct your ceremony. The main elements of the ceremony are:
Welcome, Introduction & Gathering Ritual - This can include a statement of your beliefs about what happens after death, your hopes for your loved ones and it might allow some time for quiet reflection
A prose reading, poem or similar piece of writing that speaks to you about your vision, values and purpose in life
Eulogy or Tribute. You can write your own! This is a really fantastic way to focus your mind on what really matters to you
Some reflective music
Prayers or words of reflection that allow people to hold you in their hearts and honour their memories of you
A moment of farewell. This might include the burial or the body of its committal to be cremated. This is important for those left behind as it's a moment of formal goodbye.
Some concluding words or thoughts
Music to go out to.
Use a journal to jot all this down and then set a reminder in your diary to revisit it again next year. Once you've got over the feeling that this might be an odd thing to do, I guarantee that you'll find it incredibly enjoyable!