InspirationSelf-careThe TAO of YouTransitions

Do We Have To Die Before We Can Rest In Peace?

Everything I have, I got from someplace else.

Or someplace else.

I was born into it.

I heard it or read it or learned it or remembered it.

Or it came from the great mystery that is the land of idea, insight, and inspiration.

A few days ago was no different. I was listening to a new podcast called How to Human, by Sam Lamott. Same was talking to Frank Ostaseski about all the big things in life (i.e., death), and other pearls of wisdom from the book, The Five Invitations; Discovering what death can teach us about living fully. 

I loved it. I was listening as I drove and had to keep pulling over to write down every other word they were saying.

I totally related to Sam and his fear of dying. I’ve had it since I was a little kid–the death panic. What happens? Where will I go? What will it be like? How can I handle never getting to see, do, feel, be with all the people and places that mean the world to me?

It used to haunt me. For years. It happens less now but I can still feel the icy fear wash over me late at night as I lie in bed, paralyzed and horrified by the absolute certainty that I will die and how much I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to leave this place. But. I will. There’s no getting around it.

And so will you.

Maybe you’re lucky and you don’t worry about it. Or your worry is manageable and it actually helps you stay grounded in all the things that really matter without creating undue pressure about HAVING TO DO IT ALL. Or maybe you don’t think about it at all and that helps you just be in your life, doing this or that, because what can you do about dying?

Just a few months ago, my mom lost her husband. He had medical issues but the kind that they knew were awaiting them, down the line, many years or even a decade later. They both sort of thought, Okay, that’s going to be hard but we’re not there yet. And then a sickness came over him and within a week he was dead. It was a terrible shock. Nobody saw it coming even though it was coming the whole time.

Ostaseski is a Buddhist teacher and a leader in the field of mindful end-of-life care, a sort of midwife for the final passage of life (or is it final? I guess we can’t know). He’s helped thousands of people die and hearing him speak about it is a salve for the soul. But guess what? Even he has some fear of dying. I imagine it’s not the middle of the night wide-eyed terror that won’t let him sleep (like mine), but what do I know?

(He did say this one thing: “The part of you that knows you’re afraid, is not afraid.” I love that.)

He said many wondering things that I won’t try and synopsize here except for what’s most on my mind today–what Ostaseski says those with terminal illnesses call their “Secret Gratitude.”

In a word, it’s permission.

They say, “I can say NO now. I don’t have to go to that party or talk to that person or do that thing.” Ostaseski says, YES, and also, Why do we have to wait until we get a death sentence before we allow ourselves to do what we want, right now?

“Why,” he asks, “do we have to die before we can rest in peace?”

Let us all rest in the peace of doing what makes us feel good. And rest in the peace of no longer doing what makes us feel bad.

So, what makes you feel good?

It’s an important question, a deep question, the sort of question that can lead to a more peaceful world. Because when we are doing the things that make us feel good, we are far more likely to treat everyone around us (including ourselves!) with more kindness than if we are feeling like shit.

Here’s my challenge for you: take some time today and think of what makes you feel good. Write it down. Write at least 10 things. Then ask yourself, in the spirit of gentle curiosity and total acceptance 🙂 how often are you doing any of them?

This holiday season, as we move into celebrations of miracles, of light, of closings and openings, of new beginnings, decided to do at least ONE of the things on your life. Every. Single. Day.

For how long? I don’t know. 10 days? 30? 60? Or maybe for the entire year.

Think of it! 2019 can be the year of doing what makes you feel good, joyful, and free.

Why?

Because you’re living.

Because you’re dying.

Because it’s the kindest thing you can do for you and every single person in your life.

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