Death. Remember it. Every Day.
Sounds a little morbid, but contemplating death is one of the most important practices in my life. At the age of 6 when I heard my father burst into tears at the unexpected news of his father’s death I wondered if I was supposed to feel sad too. I tried really hard to cry but I couldn’t. I guess I’ve been thinking about death since that day. 6 years later I watched my Grandmother die of cancer. It tore me apart. I’d never felt such deep pain before. I didn’t tell anyone how I felt. I didn’t know how to voice it. I just cried silently in my bed at night for some years. Soon after Granny passed on my Dad became really ill with pancreatitis and had a scary operation which we weren’t too sure he’d live through. For years my brother and I lived in the fear of Dad not being with us anymore. After years and years (I think 6, how strange) Dad made a miraculous recovery and no longer experienced the pain he’d been given high doses of morphine for. It was around this time that my Mom and brother died (some Grace there, at least Dad was stronger). There is no way I can not think about death. It has become one of my greatest teachers. My brother’s death especially has been the hardest to accept but it has driven me to depths of myself I could not know without the immense pain of his ever-present absence.
When other people die it makes us think of our own death. Are you ready to die? Now? It could happen at any time and it definitely will happen that’s for sure. Most people are afraid of death but try to forget or pretend that it’s not going to happen. I am terrified of death in some ways but also excited in a very curious way for the grand finale. It’s what this whole life is building up to.
Many experiences have led me to believe that I am just a guest in this body and that my true self is eternal and infinite. This is why I love yoga, dancing, art, meditation and Reiki because I get to explore my true nature by going deeper and deeper inwards while experiencing my physical self as an impermanent illusion.
The more I live in the very real presence of my inevitable death the more alive I feel! I’ve come to realise that this is why I notice the magic of life all around me. I can’t be sure that I’ll ever see it again. I can’t be sure of anything except this present moment. I am here. Now. That is all. I am living in a permanent mind-f*ck and it’s a miracle. All of life is a miracle. All life is sacred. Whenever things get too heavy, something reminds me of my impermanence and I come back into my body, feel my aliveness and get high on this incredible happening that is Life.
I know that the fear of death has a lot to do with not having done all you wanted to do in this life. It’s not so much about the death itself. I’m sure most people are secretly relieved that this doesn’t go on forever. I’ve thought about this a lot and I don’t have a list of places I really must see or some adventurous activities I’d like to check off before I check out. When I die I want to be sure that I did everything I could to learn to love myself so that I could truly love others unconditionally. I don’t want to have any regrets in the way I related to people. I want to tear down all the walls preventing me from loving you. I want to know the truth of who I am more than anything. I have consciously embarked on a huge and magnificent challenge.
So the value of contemplating death is that it keeps me alive and present. It gives me a certain perspective. All things have a beginning, a middle and an end, even “me”. I don’t want to sleep through life pretending that it doesn’t end. I want to live in the truth of my impermanence. I am filled to the brim with the aliveness of this realisation.
Today I went to the Indian embassy to apply for a visa. It was a good lesson in remembering that the middle, no matter how challenging, must give way to an end. I did pretty well in the first two hours of waiting around with hundreds of others, many of them stinky and robot-like. I did some body stretching, I practiced standing on one leg for a while, I remembered I had my MP3 player and listened to some rock music and then some psychedelic trance and then some shanti shanti stuff to calm down. For a while I forgot that I was in a boring embassy. When i finally made it to the counter I was given a ticket and told to wait for my number to be called. I found a spot of sunlight coming in through the window that looks out over the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok. I took my shoes off, took in some sun and did a bit of yoga. Then I started losing the plot a bit. I suddenly just had to get out of there! I knew that the better way to handle this was to surrender and relax into the moment. It became an interesting tug-of-war between being present in the moment and resisting what was happening. I decided to draw my feelings in that moment as a way to enjoy it and express my frustration. Some cute kids sat with me and I offered them pens but they preferred to observe the ensuing madness unfolding. I wish i could show you what emerged but after the fourth hour had passed and I was told to join another queue to scan my fingerprints I went into a sort of trance until it was all over and left my Reiki manual and my drawings behind. I’m hoping someone important notices my chaotic drawings and is motivated to create a more efficient visa application process ;) I also fantasised for a moment that the very important dude in the very tight pants that officials in Thailand like to wear would see my manual and take it as a sign to learn Reiki.
I encourage you to think about death. When I finally walked out of that embassy, victorious and starving, it was like nothing happened. Immediately onto the next beginning. Isn’t life like that? It begins, there’s a whole lot of middle and then it ends. Just like that. I’d like to believe that not all of me dies, that my true essence lives on, but I haven’t died yet so how can I know this? I’ve sat in many a lecture and read more books than is necessary on death and reincarnation but really all I know is that I’m alive right now, in this moment, and some day my body will no longer house my aliveness. Until then I will do whatever I can to be here, fully present in the truth of what I am.
As always, stay awesome!
Love Taryn Xx