Death: Our Greatest Teacher

No-Body Gets Out of Here Alive

To what shall
I liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane's bill.

-Dogen1200-1253 AD

The awareness of death teaches us to live in the present moment. If we live in denial of this basic truth, then we will pass our time on earth chasing a dream, only half awake, waiting for happiness to come at some future time. We will find ourselves finally on death's doorstep, never having lived at all. With awareness of the fleeting nature of the world, we crystalize our consciousness and realize that we can only live in this moment, which has no time and thus no end.

This conscious awareness of the closeness of death, is at the heart of Buddhist and Yogic traditions, as well as many other cultures - particularly those who live in close relationship with the Earth. When you know exactly where your food comes from, and how fragile the balance that sustains your body - you are more able to appreciate the inevitability of death as a natural part of life.

Try going deeper than just experiencing this awareness on an intellectual level. Start your day, before even getting out of bed, by reminding yourself that this could be your last day alive. Look at your spouse, your children, your belongings, and remind yourself that this may be your last day to spend with them. This may bring up fear or anxiety - especially the first few times you try this, but that is OK. We have numbed ourselves to our feelings for long enough. As you continue with this daily routine, you will experience other things: gratitude, love, peace, clarity, hightened energy, and joy.

Do this exercise also before bed, before saying goodbye and before eating a meal -- as many times during the day that you can remember. It only takes a few breaths to bring yourself back to this state of Presence.

It is essential that you do this practice with the utmost sincerity if you want to get the greatest benefit. You must really feel your way into this awareness, let it open your heart, feel your sense of Presence grow as the here-and-now living moment comes into sharp focus. Feel your breath. Breath slowly and deeply. Look around at the room, the view from the window and really SEE things. Feel the morning air on your skin and really FEEL it. Tune in to all of your physical senses and appreciate them all as you continue to breath with mindful awareness.


This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived
and he dreams
he's living in another town
in the dream he doesn't remember
the town he's sleeping in his bed in
he believes the reality
of the dream town
the world is that kind of sleep

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness,
that directs the dream
and that will eventually
startle us back
to the truth of
who we are

Jelaluddin Rumi(1207 - 1273 AD)-Translation by Coleman Barks

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