Contemplations On Death
The eight worldly concerns dominate our lives, cause us problems, and make us waste our potential. They arise easily when we think only of the happiness of this life and just live on automatic.
Reflecting on impermanence and death enlarges our perspective and helps us set our priorities wisely. This, in turn, enables us to turn our attention away from the eight worldly concerns to more important activities, such as cultivating compassion and wisdom and sowing seeds of love, kindness, and support in the world.
Contemplations on The Natural Ultimate Season of Life—Death
In our culture we don’t take time for contemplating the natural, ultimate season of life—death.
Considering the mortality of others and ourselves helps us clarify our priorities in life so that we make our life truly worthwhile and meaningful. Anything we plan for is less fearful and threatening when it actually happens—examples are preparing for SAT or drivers-license tests or a presentation that you have to give at work. Thinking of your own life, consider:
1. Death is inevitable, definite. There is no way to avoid dying.
· Nothing can prevent our eventually dying. Everyone who is born must die, no matter who we are. Reflect that you and everyone you know and care for will sometime die.
· With each passing moment we approach death. We cannot turn the clock back or escape from death.
· We will die even if we have not had time to practice spiritual teachings.
· Notice that I put on certain identities: my name, gender, career, and many beliefs about myself and at death I release them all.
Conclusion: See the value of these teachings so that you can transform your mind.
2. The time of death is uncertain. We don’t know when we’ll die.
· In general there is no certainty of lifespan in our world. People die at all ages. There is no guarantee we will live long. Reflect on the people you know who have died. How old were they? What were they doing when they died? Did they expect to die that day?
· Our body is extremely fragile. Small things—viruses, bacteria, or pieces of metal—can harm it and cause death.
Conclusion: See the value in practicing ethical, kind, and generous living, beginning now.
3. Nothing else can help at the time of death except our spiritual practices and faith and your development of your spiritual values and the peace they give you.
· Wealth is of no help. Our material possessions can’t come with us after death. We spend our lives working hard to accumulate and protect our things. At the time of death we leave the money and possessions behind.
· The Not even our body is of any help. It is burnt or buried and is of no use to anyone. The actions we created in beautifying, pampering, and seeking pleasure for this body, however, have influenced not only ourselves but other people as well. Only the legacy of our attitudes and actions we practiced—stays on after we go in the form of memories that are offerings of kindness—or of distress—that we planted in people’s hearts and minds.
4. To prepare us for our ultimate separation from the things we love, we can observe mini-deaths in our everyday life. We all experience them in the form of disappointment or things not working out. Notice that everything always changes and ends—every breath that we take, the seasons, our health changes—we get sick and we get better, our family and friends change, our job begins and ends, our strength declines as we age or our hair grows and falls out. There is a continual dance of birth and death—a dance of change. All of this is to prompt us to let go of all of the things that we cling to. We don’t really own anything, not even our bodies—we just rent this space, so to speak.
Conclusion: You must practice these spiritual teachings and live your life in a conscious, loving, and committed way. You may have spent your entire life accumulating and caring for material things, but at the time of death, you must separate from them without choice. What, then, is the use of chasing after these things while you’re alive and creating negative habits to get them?
Since your habits of—mind, emotions, and actions—your spiritual development and values aid you at death, isn’t it more worthwhile to pay attention to these? Knowing this, what is a healthy and balanced attitude to have towards material possessions, friends, relatives, and your body?
Review Our Life
· What do I value, what is important in my life?
· What do I feel good about having done?
· What do I regret?
· What do I want to do and to avoid doing while I’m alive?
· What are my priorities in life?
· Imagine a circumstance in which you are dying: where you are, how you are dying, and the reactions of friends and family?
· How do you feel about dying?
· What is happening in your mind?
· Have a death party. Invite your dear ones over, celebrate, and give things away. The Native American tradition has a potlatch ceremony that does this.
Conclusion: Feel the importance of making your life meaningful. Make specific conclusions about what you want to do and to avoid doing from now on.
Eat healthy, exercise, die anyway!
But consider, that the quality of your life
can be dramatically enhanced by your daily choices.
Meditations by Rodney Smith from the Seattle Insight Meditation Society:
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