A few days ago, I blogged about what I do each morning to wake up and fully prepare to live another 24 hours.
However, there is another facet of my process I didn’t share in that post, which is preparing for our own death daily.
I have found much of my light through a daily meditation practice, which includes as much study and service as it does actual meditation.
In one of my study sessions, I read an essay on the topic of preparing for your own death that I’ve never forgotten.
The story went like this:
A man approached a great king asking for self-knowledge. The day he arrived happened to be the day of the annual kingdom-wide fair, and there were festivities everywhere! Magicians, jugglers, fire walks, jousts – it was nearly too much for the simple country man to take in! In answer to his request, the King replied, “Take this bowl of water and walk through the streets all the way to the end, then turn around and walk back. If even one drop of the water in that bowl spills, I will have my best swordsman cut off your head!”
The man was floored….terrified….and (being as how it was the King and he couldn’t just take back his request and leave) determined not to let one drop of water spill from the bowl. He walked very carefully, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the bowl. He looked nowhere else. Somehow he made it all the way there and back to the King without spilling one drop. Then he asked, “Why did you ask me to do that?”
The King replied, “Did you look to the right or left, at the jesters or jousters or fire eaters or anything else?” The man said, “No, of course not! I only thought about the bowl and making sure not one drop of water spilled!”
“Ahhhh….,” said the King. “This is what it is like to attain self-knowledge. You are not distracted by the temporary plays and sights and sounds of this world, because you always remember the hour of your own death.”
Needless to say, the man went away changed.
This is how I feel each morning when I wake up.
I remember I am receiving another whole day of LIFE – what a gift!
And I remember it could end at any moment.
In this way, I stay fixated on my priorities in life – giving and receiving love, becoming my “best me,” being of service, taking good care of my responsibilities, tackling the challenges I need to challenge and letting all the rest simply pass by.
When good times come, I stay firmly fixed in enjoying them (i.e. not doing that awful thing I used to do – thinking all the while about how miserable I’ll be when they end and I am sad again).
When tough times come, like an argument with a friend or the news of someone who is ill or passing, I keep my eyes firmly fixed on the bowl of water, making sure I don’t spill one drop of my own precious priorities even as I grieve, make amends, celebrate, or do whatever each moment requires of me.
These practices also help me:
- I refuse to let one day’s circumstances define me or my own potential.
- I hold on to the knowledge I am more than my victories or my mistakes.
- I also remember I am more than just the part I play in others’ lives or my own.
- And I say a phrase my dad taught me, “This too shall pass,” and I remember it is TRUE.
- I call my mentors when I am really struggling and they remind me of the core of who I am – a being of light and love who has infinite potential to feel this state within myself and share it with others.
By preparing myself to die daily, I receive the opportunity each day to identify and handle items that might otherwise turn later into regrets, heartache, or those sooooo sad “I wanted to….but it was too late” stories.
I think about this consciously – sometimes at night, sometimes in the morning – inquiring gently of myself, “What will you regret if you were lying on your death bed right now?”
Sometimes I ask myself, “What haven’t you done that you want/need to do before you die?”
Here, I look for spirit-callings, not just fun “wish list” type stuff.
Here is an example:
- If I never visit Australia or the Galapagos Islands before I die, I may feel a bit bummed out.
- If I never learn to fly, I will feel so much regret it might actually raise me up from the dead so I can take care of this unresolved matter!
All that to say, sometimes the things that will cause serious “deathbed regrets” may not make a lot of sense, but that isn’t important.
What IS important is that I prepare for my own death daily by not delaying to work towards the true longings of my heart and soul, even while living the very best life I can live as “me.”
In this way, I fully intend -and plan – to a) live a happy and fulfilled life and, b) die a happy and fulfilled death.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you do anything daily or regularly to prepare for your own death? Is this a topic that offers you comfort or brings up anxiety or un-ease? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights!