For many, death is an uncomfortable topic. While we many not share beliefs regarding what happens after the body dies, we can all agree on two things:
1. We will all experience death of the body.
2. We don't know when death will happen.
Because of these two facts, many of us spend a lot of energy trying to deny or avoid accepting them. Now we could spend a lot of time and energy contemplating the unknown, of what happens after the body dies. But in the end, all we are left with are ideas and beliefs. Instead, we could decide to make the most of the life we know we have.
Ridding ourselves of the fear of death becomes a crucial step in connecting to our natural joy. That is because the fear of death underlies many of the other fears we may have: the fear of aging, the fear of losing identity, the fear of losing power, the fear of losing possessions, etc.
Rather than fearing the death of the body, some future event, we can allow ourselves to be comfortable with that truth and let go of many other fears. We can refocus our attention on what is here, right now, right before us and celebrate in the beauty and wonderment of the leaves dancing in the wind, the birds singing in the trees, the friend that sits beside you.
When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world
One realm we have never conquered--the pure present. One great mystery of time is terra incognita to us--the instant. The most superb mystery we have hardly recognized--the immediate, instant self.
I am Myohye Do'an, a bhikṣu (fully ordained Chán Buddhist monk) and Chán Master. Here I share my thoughts and observations about living a life of compassion, attention and gratitude.