THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTEMPLATING YOUR OWN MORTALITY
Accepting death is a topic that many people are wary of. They don’t like thinking about it, talking about it, or reading about it for that matter.
I realize this, but it is a very, very important topic to discuss. It has had a profound impact on me and the way I live my life. I have found the benefits to contemplating one’s own death to be immeasurable; that is why I have chosen to share this with you all.
“In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes”
Let’s face the facts: one day, you are going to die. I am going to die. Everyone we know will one day die. In a life filled with uncertainty, this remains constant.
Beyond this, there is much that is unknown. We can make assumptions based on our faith and spiritual believes but no one really knows what happens after death because no one has ever lived to tell us about it.
It is easy to become distraught when confronted with the idea of death because death seems unimaginable. We’ve been alive our whole lives; we are only familiar with the conscious state that we currently exist in. As humans, we naturally fear the unknown.
The truth is death doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, contemplating your own death is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your life. Here are just a few things it can help you do:
Contemplating death from time to time doesn’t mean you are negative; it means you are aware of your limited amount of time.
By staying mindful of death, we can begin to put our lives into perspective. By remembering that our time on earth is finite, we realize that trivial things that seem important to us really aren’t important at all.
You realize that worrying about things like how many likes you get on a social media post or impressing your neighbors aren’t as important as they seem. You begin to see how you’ve been wasting precious time on these things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of your life.
Maybe you come to realize that all you’ve been doing is working and haven’t stopped in a while to enjoy life. Maybe there is somewhere you really want to travel to or some girl you want to talk to. Gaining a new perspective on death may give you the push to do these things.
Contemplating death can help us gain perspective and live our lives in more meaningful ways.
With the realization of death comes new-found gratitude for the things and people around us.
Contemplation of death has the ability to bring a greater appreciation for all of the things that make up our lives: our relationships, our surroundings, our planet, and our time.
I have personally found this very useful for finding gratitude in my own life. When I was 20 years old I took a high paying job that required me to move far away from my family. The job had me working 75+ hours a week and made traveling home to see my family difficult.
I have always loved my family but it wasn’t until I started practicing these principles that I began to truly appreciate what they meant to me. While the job paid well, I realized that it would never replace the limited amount of time I had with my family.
Building your Legacy
When we think of death, we often begin to question our legacy and what effect our lives will have on the world long after our physical bodies have deteriorated.
We may begin to contemplate how we can leave a positive impact on society. Living a life with the intent to help others is the key to ultimate fulfillment.
Ernest Becker’s book “The Denial of Death” suggests that all humans, whether conscious of it or not, are motivated by what is known as an “immortality project” or being a part of something that we feel will outlast our time on Earth. Whether or not you completely buy into this, it is hard to deny how much that this so-called sense of immortality influences us.
Think about it; dedicating a building in someone’s name is one of the highest honors that someone can receive. By doing this, the person’s name and their legacy will be remembered long after they pass.
While not all of us are looking for our name on a building, we all certainly want to be remembered favorably those that we love.
Practicing mindfulness of death
Mindfulness of death is a concept as old as Buddha; and probably even older. The key to unlocking the potential that mindfulness of death brings is through meditation.
I used to laugh at the idea of meditation as I thought the practice was silly. I would imagine a monk sitting with his legs crossed, incense burning, and the stereotypical “ohm” sound they would make.
Meditation is nothing like that. In fact, mediation is by far one of the most powerful tools you can use to build a stronger, more clear mind. But, I already hear some of you asking, what if I’ve never meditated before?
Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. I want to preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert in meditation; I just do what works for me. Many things that people tell you are right and wrong about meditation are subjective; whatever brings you the results you are looking for is the best method.
This is my method:
First, consider the goals of your meditation. Some meditation can help to achieve inner peace and quiet your thoughts while others can help to resolve inner turmoil. Having a clearly defined goal is important to staying on topic.
Next, find a quiet and calm place to relax. Get into a comfortable position. After you are comfortable, close your eyes and begin taking slow, deep breaths.
Begin to imagine the word death or a related image such as a tombstone and hold that in your mind. Your mind is most likely going to want to deviate and think of other things, especially on such a grim topic; that is normal. Just refocus and remember the goal of the meditation. Staying focused takes a lot of practice so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t come immediately.
Once your mind is quiet and has become centered on the idea of death, begin to contemplate it.
Consider the inevitability of death. Think about the fact that you are not sure when death will arrive; no one is. Consider the fragility of the body and that while you are alive and healthy at this moment, many internal and external forces out of your control can quickly change this. Natural disasters, disease, violence, accidents, or other events can happen at any time and without warning.
Ask yourself this: If death came at this moment would I be satisfied with everything I have done in my life? If I died at this very moment, would I be satisfied with the last words I said to those I love? Do I appreciate the ones I love as much as I should?
Consider that your lifespan is constantly and steadily decreasing. Each and every minute that passes is a minute closer to death; for every moment that passes you are losing vitality and youth. Time is a finite resource that can not be regained. Ask yourself: Am I making the most of the limited time I have on this earth?
Remember that death is life’s only certainty and therefore should not be feared. It is something that everyone that has ever lived has gone through and everyone that is currently living will eventually go through.
Realize that the death of others has allowed their bodies to return to the earth and that those elements now live on within you; your passing will do the same and allow future generations the gift of life that you have been given.
Now open your eyes.
Take a deep breath. Remember that your breath signifies life; a life that has been gifted to you.
Now, ask yourself, what are you doing with that life you’ve been given?
This is just an example; there are limitless resources you can use to meditate and further delve into the subject.
Your own mortality is an important concept to come to terms with. Meditation on the topic has the potential to bring wisdom and clarity to your life. I hope that by reading this you have seen some of the benefits it can provide. Use it as a tool to bring perspective into your life.
Remember the whole reason you can experience death in the first place is because you have been given the gift of life and, for that, you should be grateful.
Ironically, it’s the acceptance of death that allows us to live.