Sometimes in order to really experience and embrace life, it’s important to acknowledge and embrace death. Our culture is riddled with a denial of and aversion to death. Actor and Filmmaker Woody Allen once said “I don’t mind dying as long as I don’t have to be there.”
What is this aversion and denial all about and how does it keep us entangled in our own neuroses?Many traditions actually have death meditations that have us cultivate an understanding of and appreciation for this impermanent life.
One such meditation, which stems from Buddhist traditions, has us go through 32 parts of the body that we might not normally consider and put each aside one by one. By the way, this can be done without any connection to Buddhism. These parts include:
Hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin
Flesh, sinews, bone, marrow, kidneys
Heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs
Bowels, intestines, gorge, dung, brain
Bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat
Tears, grease, snot, spittle, oil of the joints, urine
If there is an element of aversion or disgust arising in you after you read this, just notice that. It’s worth inquiring what exactly that’s about.
One of the aims of this blog is around cultivating insight into our habitual tendencies and getting curious about them. Why? Because we’re after breaking free from the confines of our minds to truly live the lives we want.
A big aversion for many people is death and so it’s worth getting curious about how that aversion affects us while we’re alive.
While many people do the practice above with the intention of stripping away ego, it can also be done to get us in touch with reality of this body and its true impermanent nature.
Why do this?
When we truly recognize that we are on this earth for a finite period of time and that we are more than our bodies, we can begin to see the true preciousness of this life. When we recognize the preciousness of life, we may not get caught up in all the small stuff that entangles us in our neuroses, exacerbating states of stress, anxiety, depression and more.
If you feel up to it, take a moment to picture yourself many years from now on your own deathbed looking back on today. What are you proud of and what would you have wished you would have done differently?
Now is your chance.
As always please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
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Last reviewed: 21 Apr 2010