Here is my question. Who or what is the best teacher in your life?
About eight months ago, I was doing some research on the number of deaths in our country daily and the cause of death.
Here is what I found out.
Heart Disease = 1774 per day
Obesity = 822 deaths per day
Car accidents = 102 deaths per day
Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of Death, totaling 110 million deaths per year, which calculates to 301, 369 deaths per day in the United States.
I remember thinking that probably 90% of the stress-related deaths would be preventable if people lived with more presence in their lives. We will get back to this.
However, the one that got me was auto accidents. Think of if 102 people a day wake up each morning to meet the day, but they don’t end up back home at the end of the day. Then I thought, OK, what if I don’t make it home at the end of the day. How would I want the people who would first enter my home to feel? How would I want them to find things?
This changed things for me. That day I decided that I would leave my home each day in the kind of state that I would want others to find it if I didn’t ever come back. My bed is made, all the dishes are washed and put away, all of my clothes are picked up and in their place. It is neat and tidy. And you know what’s great about this? Every afternoon or evening, when I get back home, it is welcoming. It feels good to walk into my house.
Consider Death As The Greatest Teacher In Your Life
So today, I would like for you, at least for the next 15 minutes, to consider ‘death’ the greatest teacher in your life. Please stick with me on this. It is not nearly as morbid as it might sound.
Have any of you read The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer? Well, in the past few years, I would pick it up to read, and I could never get into it. I guess I wasn’t in a place in my life where I was able to absorb the concepts that Singer describes in the book.
Is there anyone out there like me? I would read two or three paragraphs, maybe even two or three pages. Even though my eyes were seeing the words, my brain would drift off to riveting thoughts like, oh, I need to remember to get trash bags next time I go to the store, or wow, some popcorn and a glass of wine sound good right now, or I forgot to tell my brother something when I spoke to him on the phone yesterday. Has this ever happened to any of you?
Talk about not being present. Ugh.
I picked the book up a few months ago and started rereading it for the third time. And this time, the words resonated with me. I thought, holy shit, these are the most amazing words to hit a piece of paper in the history of time. I read and pondered and highlighted as I went along.
And then, I got to chapter 17. The title of the chapter is Contemplating Death.
Singer suggests that no person or situation could ever teach us as much as Death has to teach us.
Think about it; we are all going to breathe our last breath at some point. And if we are wise and willing students of Death, we know that it could happen at any moment in time.
And I say that it is smart to wholeheartedly embrace the reality and inevitability and the unpredictability of Death.
And so why should we consider Death a valuable reminder to live at our highest level?
Let’s look at our loved ones. It is easy to take them for granted. We rely on them to be there for us and to accept us, even when we are grumpy and treating them unkindly.
Think about the conversations you have and the people or things that you plug into that allow stress into your life.
Now imagine this. The angel of Death visits you tonight and says, guess what, you have one week to live. Then what?
What would your conversations be like?
Would you complain about the things you have been complaining about?
Would you keep holding those grudges?
Would your have to’s turn into getting to’s?
Would your need to’s turn into want to’s?
Death is not a morbid thought. Death is the most fantastic teacher in life.
Who lives with this level of awareness?
I predict that if you ask people who are genuinely awakened how they would live their last week, they would say that nothing would change. Why? Because they are living their lives fully. They are not making compromises or playing games with themselves.
We have to be willing to look at what it would be like if Death was staring us in the face.
The beauty of embracing profound truths is that you don’t have to change your life. You change how you live your life.
Let’s take a straightforward example. You’ve walked outside thousands of times in your life, but how many times have you truly appreciated it?
Imagine a person in a hospital bed who has just been told that they have a week to live. They look at their doctor and say, Can I walk outside? Can I look at the sky one more time?
If it were raining outside, they would want to smell and see and feel the rain one more time. This would be a precious thing for them. But for us, most of us don’t want to feel the rain. What do we do? We run and cover up and complain because it is raining.
I observe that so many of us fear Death because we have projected ourselves so far into the future that we can’t just be here and now and live life. We have to understand that our attempt to get special experiences from life makes us miss the experience of life. If we are so busy trying to get something, we will miss the slice we are experiencing. Think about it, we get in our cars and drive from here to there, and we don’t see anything.
Why? Because we aren’t present. We are busy thinking about what we are going to do next. We are a week, a month, even a year ahead of ourselves. When we do this, we aren’t living life. We are living in our minds. In the past few years, we have all heard the term “mindfulness” I think we need to change it to “mindlessness” instead of a full mind; it seems it would be better to have less in our mind.
We have to let go of the scared part of us that keeps us from living fully. You know that you will die, so be willing to say what needs to be told and do what needs to be done. Be ready to be fully present without being fearful of what will happen in the next moment.
Think about it like this. Life itself is your vocation, and your interaction with it is your most important relationship. What gives life meaning is our willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event. It is the willingness to experience life’s events fully.
Living fully means letting each moment fill us completely. Allow life to touch us deeply. There is no moment that can’t do that. One of the tenants that I live my life by is to allow every experience to be a gift. Even the things that feel awful. Embrace the experience of it.
Don’t be afraid of Death. Instead, let it free you. Let it be a reminder to live life fully. Experience the life that is happening to you. Appreciate every single moment you are given.