Death is the greatest motivator for life
I ignored death for 30 years of my life, until the point where I collapsed one day and discovered I had an incurable issue with my heart. Being honest, I ignored it after that too. I just carried on with the same routine that probably put me there in the first place. A few years later after things were still affecting me, I began to question things at a deeper level. I began to ask why, why has this happened? Why do things like this exist?
I realised for the first time in my life that death has always surrounded me, that it surrounds all of us, it’s ever-present. It took something serious to make me realise that I’m not invincible, and nor are you, and that it can knock on our door at any time it chooses. With this, I saw that death is perhaps the greatest motivator and understanding that one can possess, IF, you choose to see it this way. You have two choices, fear death and pretend it doesn’t happen or embrace it, knowing that you and your loved ones are not invincible and our time together will one day end.
This is an incredibly difficult thing to fathom, it’s also an incredibly beautiful thing.
Death helps us to make the most of our time on earth, with our loved ones, and to remember that you should strive to be the best person you can be. It is there to help you practice courage so you don’t put off things you know deep down you need to confront. It reminds you not to get caught up with your ego and things that don’t really matter.
Death is one of my common meditations, where I say thank you for my existence as well as the time spent with my loved ones. It helps me remember that what matters in life is love and living in health, that belongings disappear and status is ephemeral. Without awareness of death, we get stuck in a egoic routine of believing that the small things matter in life such as what people think about you, status, wealth and forget the simple things, such as love, laughter and nature.
WHY HAVE WE GROWN TO BE SO FEARFUL OF DEATH?
Firstly, because we have greater perceived safety in our existence. We now have healthcare, homes, food and luxuries so there is an unconscious assumption that we have guaranteed our existence somewhat, compared to when we lived more primitive lives. This is not the entire case unfortunately, death can happen in multiple ways at any time and without us being able to influence it.
Secondly, because our capitalist belief structure likes to paint a picture that we will live forever, that death is something to be feared, because then you can sell products around it. Anti-ageing creams are the epitome of this, you are basically spending extortionate amounts of money on something that is not in your control, that is a pattern of nature, but we are sold a belief that smothering some cream will stop one of nature’s key processes, ageing.
Thirdly, we are less connected to the natural world and spirituality. If you observe nature, things die all the time, things are reborn all the time. Yesterday, I accidentally stepped onto a snail when I walked into my garden, crushing it to its death, how fragile life is, this is the same as it is for humans too. Flowers die every autumn and awake every summer, ask the question what is happening, question what you look at. It doesn’t mean you become immune to pain when death occurs but it helps you gain the strength to accept it, you know that it’s a wider pattern governed by nature, applied to all living beings.
DEATH AS A MOTIVATOR, AS A PATTERN FOR EXISTENCE
What would you do if you knew you only had a few days left to be alive? That’s how we must live. Death teaches us to take risks, that there is beauty and meaning in doing so, it’s a pattern for survival, to keep developing. There is no real meaning in doing the same thing all the time, life becomes monotonous and you seek highs to gratify yourself.
Death teaches us to be grateful, to understand that every day we are alive is a blessing, every person around us we love is a blessing, our eyes, our noses, our movement, our beds, our shoes, you can go on forever, and you should. Death teaches us that safety is really only a temporary thing, that life is by nature unsafe and volatile, and therefore we should embrace that law. Go out to the sea in winter and dip your toes in the cold water.
Death teaches us to ask why, why do we spend our lives working on something we don’t care about? Why am I working for someone who doesn’t respect me? Why can’t I learn something I am interested in? Why am I not interested in these things?
I often think of native cultures, that lived without modern medicine and luxury. They often lived deeper in nature and embraced death, integrating it into their belief systems from day one of existence. Because they interact with nature, they understands life’s laws, we live further away from this existence, but we are unaware that nature still applies the same laws to everyone. Natives living in the jungles, understand that there may be animals that can bite or endanger, but this is what helps them remember to live too, they know that if they stay idle for too long that they won’t be able to feed their families.
We live in a mental mode of death denial. When it occurs, we act as if it should have been an impossibility. We believe we are going to live forever, so we don’t take risks, we don’t ask why, we don’t say thanks. Again, death reminds us, you don’t know when it is your time, so don’t live as if you have all the time in the world to decide.
If you really want to embrace death, try fostering a state of awareness, something that is within all of us naturally. This allows you to move beyond your ego. Awareness teaches us acceptance, stillness, to be present with pain but to not induce suffering. It teaches us that this is a law of life, applicable to all living beings. Awareness comes from a state of meditation, of still mind, of practice. It cannot be bought, like most things in life, it can only be developed from within.
Just remember that death sits on all of our shoulders, and at any point, IT decides when it's time, not you.
It’s the greatest reminder and motivator to go out and live your life.