The Way You Should be Looking At Death: Don’t Fear It, Embrace It.
We’ve all lost people whom we loved, to death. We’ve seen their bodies, once healthy and strong, wither away. Many of us have heard them mouth regrets when their end was near. Regrets of what they didn’t do and what they should have done.
When terminally ill patients were asked about their biggest regret in life, most of them said that they regretted wasting time chasing the wrong things. They didn’t do things that added REAL value to their life. By the time they had this epiphany, it was too late to affect any change. Their time had run out.
We are all here, in this physical realm, on borrowed time. Some of us have a little longer to live than others but almost all of us are unsure about the length of the stay. Yet, we live like we have all the time in the world. As if we’ve come here packaged in a bottle with no expiry date.
When you are staring at the inevitability of death like a terminally ill patient does, all the money that you spent your time amassing, can’t buy you more time. Nothing can.
Don’t Fear Death, Embrace It
We look at death with great fear. We shut the door on the subject because it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to accept the reality of our temporary existence. Yet, we are all going to die no matter how much it scares us.
Instead of looking at death as a thing of great morbidity, fear and finality, we need to see death and it’s inevitability as a tool for living. The ancient Greeks used to “practice death every day”. They believed that being aware of death throughout your life can give rise to the healthiest attitude: one of perspective. And that perspective can lead you to live a life of greater intent and higher purpose.
In 2005, Steve Jobs, who had just been operated for pancreatic cancer, reflected on his own mortality in a moving address at Stanford University. He said “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent.”
Spend Time On People That Matter
Why does it take the nearness of death for us to realize that we’ve spent, far too much of our life, throwing away time that we could have used to create a life of higher intent and purpose? Why wait for a near death epiphany to change the mind-set of selfish gratification to one of selfless action?
Tuesdays with Morrie is a book that I have read multiple times, as I am sure many of you have. It recounts the conversations between the author, Mitch Albom, and his old professor, Morrie Schwartz, on life, mortality and the philosophy of living. Morrie, who is at the cusp of death, serves up some life lessons to his former student and one brief passage deals with the meaning of life, “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
A self-evaluation of the time that we spend every day on our personal pursuit’s v/s service to others will give us a sense of how many hours or minutes or seconds we spend in creating REAL value in our temporary physical existence and just how much time we throw away…and believe me there is plenty we throw away!
While meditating on the subject, I spoke to someone who has been a spiritualist for 35 years and has dedicated himself to the service of others. When I asked him how much time he had spent in spiritual pursuits, he said that he had probably spent 2 hours every day, for the past 35 years, dedicated wholly to the service of others. 2 hours every day for 35 years would amount to 25,500 hours of service. Seems like a big number, doesn’t it? But here is the catch – it’s just 1% of time of 35 years of time. Just a meagre 1%!!!
If the number is so miniscule for someone who has been very active in spiritual work, I was intrigued by the percentage of time that the other people spent in advancing their spiritual growth. In the case of some people who were already involved in doing good work, the time that they spent on spiritual growth was not even .o1% of their time. While is some other cases, it was even lower.
Why don’t you take a few minutes to do this exercise? Hopefully, this self evaluation will not only test your mathematical skills but also serve as a trigger to use your time to create a life of higher purpose and meaning.
Many of us will end up at the end of our lives with x number of hours that we could’ve spent on our own spiritual growth and learning. Yet, we chase the wrong things and time just drifts by and by the time our end is near, all we is a bunch of unrectifiable regrets.
Why not make a change by using the reality of death as a learning tool to advance in this life and the next? The ancient Greeks did it, why can’t you? You are on borrowed time, the clock is ticking, so do not waste another second, procrastinating. Invest in your soul’s future. Invest in building your karmic assets. It will reap rewards that you cannot even begin to imagine.