Death & Doom?

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

It is our practice to notice and work with the fact of impermanence, which is expressed poetically in Buddhism in The Five Remembrances

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

"I am of the nature to die." Why contemplate such a morbid idea? Because it's true. It's a fact. No exceptions will be made. Not only will you die, the moment you are born, you are already dying. There is a subtle background anxiety as the self feels the certainty of death and reacts by directing our attention everywhere else. Anywhere else. Anything but THIS.  In this condition, without antidoting this tendency, you literally cannot sit still. Even if your body is sitting, your mind cannot rest. From a Buddhist perspective, without practice, this restlessness is one of the 'givens' of being born as a human being. Our life is a constant flow of doing and going. Surprisingly, one of the most potent antidotes for the habitual tendency towards this constant distraction and restlessness is the contemplation of death. Why is this so? In one sense, every distraction is the mind's way of hiding from the fear of death. Watch your thoughts and actions today. Can you see them through this lens of avoidance of death? Can you see how the fear of death is omnipresent and how it keeps you from a direct and ever-present joyful intimacy with your life? 

HOW TO PRACTICE with this The time of Covid19 is a stressful time, but perhaps surprisingly, the continuous acknowledgement that you could die will relieve your stress, not increase it. Are you willing to try this? Begin with a simple reminder to yourself that all things that are born will die. Get specific. You will die. Are already dying. You cannot know when, or where or how, but you absolutely WILL die. Keep your mind right there. After reminding yourself of that, don't think. Just feel. Notice the urge to get up and do something. Notice the barrage of thoughts. Feel under those experiences into the feeling of anxiety. Stay right there. Don't resist that feeling nor try to make it something else. Just rest right there, patently experiencing. Then let that effort go and go on with your day.  Part of the contemplation is to notice that even though you are dying in every moment since your birth, it is also true that you are fine, RIGHT NOW. There is sun in the sky, you are walking, talking, breathing and able to love and be loved. Relinquishing worry about a future which may not ever arise frees you to enjoy and appreciate this moment, this experience exactly as it is. It frees you up to act with clarity and compassion NOW. It frees you up to use your clear mind, open heart and intelligence and experience to do what needs to be done NOW. 

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