The reflection on impermanence, death, decay and dying is one of the most important contemplations I have ever encountered. The reason for giving such importance to this point is that it can lead to a direct – and often radical – shift within my attitude. It creates a totally different outlook and opens up the door for countless blessings to enter my life. This is what I want to share with you today.
The tendency to waste time or resources is based on ignoring the fact that both are limited. Often we don’t appreciate things until we loose them. Life is at the base of all other things to be appreciated yet often forgotten in favor of producing or consuming other things. Death might thus often appear as a seemingly rude reminder, disturbing the sleep of ignorance somewhat. It reveals that life is precious, that our actions matter and that happiness can’t be found elsewhere.
If you are alive you can be kind or angry, you could build or destroy, move on and give up. Your options of what to make out of your present circumstances – in THIS very moment – are virtually infinite. The power to create direction, both positive or negative, is actually within your hands – right NOW. You can choose how you want to feel about something, consider new perspectives, learn and grow. Having this choice depends on the fact that you are aware of it. And being aware of this precious gift depends on the fact that you are alive.
A dreamer who has become lucidly aware during a dream has the choice to either design or completely transcend the dream by finding the very “screen” on which it appears. There are thus three discernible options, or three modes of being. The mode of an unconscious “victim” of circumstances, the “magician” or creator and finally the “knower” or the one completely transcending birth and death. To a victim life appears as if it’s happening to him/her. A magician knows that he plays the active role of creation and to the knower, life appears as the one timeless, nameless truth. Having the choice to either create or transcend suffering is what makes this life most precious in my little eyes.
Death reminds us that our journey in this lifetime is finite. It’s almost like we are born with a certain amount of gold. Some discover that they have gold and put it to good use. Others never discover their gold until they do their last breath. Some know that they are alive NOW and that their time is limited. They naturally want to use their remaining time well (at least some people). If this was my last day, I feel I wouldn’t want to waste my time by fighting passionately about politics with my spouse. The prospect of death humbles me, it shows me that I am very very small.
The great power of death is that it cuts through what’s inessential, painful and meaningless straight away. It doesn’t give me time to linger with painful thoughts, emotions and arrogance. Death makes opens my heart and steers my mind towards forgiveness. I am not saying that this happens to everyone who is confronted with death. But one thing is for sure: Death surely has the power to raise essential questions and reveal what we usually try to hide – vulnerability and profound humanity. In the light of death our hearts often melt enough to reveal just how important our present actions are.
In our modern societies we tend to grow up learning how to efficiently produce and consume. Our educational systems teach us about outer space, its content and time. Hardly ever do we learn about inner space and are often left confused and anxious in times without external distractions to keep us entertained. In such a world we learn that happiness lives in things and other people. The good stuff seems to be somewhere out there and all we need to do is get up and get it, consume it. Happiness appears as a future thing that we need to get.
But what if happiness wasn’t a thing to get – what if it was who you essentially ARE? What if happiness didn’t exist within consumption but is found in release? True happiness is like a diamond within our heart waiting to be freed from many layers of dirt and rock. It’s neither out there, nor somewhere in the future.The great illusion is that happiness is a thing that can be added on to me. But all possessions are subject to death and decay. Only by remembering this truth will we learn to look within for true happiness. Death functions as a reminder that all outer things will perish. In the end we go alone – and if we haven’t found our true center, we loose everything.
Something inside most of us is deeply threatened by the idea of loosing everything we identify with, all the accumulated things that seemingly make us happy. In my opinion, this fear could also be an invitation to find a reliable refuge within, a true center that is unshakeable, free and pristine. In fact I would say that if you have found your center, you have found everything there is to be found.
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Tobi has been studying and practicing meditation since 2002. He stayed 7 years in a Tibetan Buddhist Temple and currently lives in Thailand where he founded the Dharana Meditation and Retreat Center in Phuket with his wife Parn. In Thailand he continued his practice and found a spiritual home within local Theravada Buddhism. Tobi is known for an open and relaxed teaching style focusing mainly on a practical application of mindfulness meditation within a modern society. The direct experience of what the practical teachings point to is of foremost importance to him.