In the past few weeks, through a number of experiences, I’ve had my attention and focus placed on death and the very real impermanence of our existence.
My former doctoral adviser and then colleague for the past 15 years passed away recently, a friend’s colleague was in an accident and was killed the other weekend and then I see in the news today about the death of Beau Biden from brain cancer.
We know that death is a part of each of us. It is our destiny since birth. This is not to be morbid or to be seen as negative.
In the classical Buddhist teaching, a deep understanding and acceptance of death is an important step towards a fully engaged life.
Of all footprints
That of the elephant is supreme;
Of all mindfulness meditations
That on death is supreme.
There’s a great country song (not words you often find next to each other), which has the chorus of,
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'”
-- Tim Nichols & Craig Michael Wiseman
We are living and dying. Both are always happening with every single breath.
One meditation is to sit and as you breath,
In breath, say: Living Breath
Out breath, say: Dying Breath
We think of breath as our breath of life, but each breath is also about a breath of dying. Our bodies are running down, our skin is sloughing off, our heart runs a bit slower. It is a reality that each breath is both about living and it is about dying. Can we live at the wonderful intersection of both of these truths.
This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is a flash of lightening in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.
I hope you can take a moment to sit in quiet and in a simple, non-judging way notice your breath and be aware of your life and simultaneously of your death.
If you are able to do that, to sit in complete awareness of your living and dying breath, then you are really living "like you were dyin."