Death isn’t usually a topic I write about. The mere mention of the word usually makes minds wander, rooms empty pretty quickly and change of subject matter happens at lightening speed.
I mean, what’s positive about death? Well, everything. Bear with me and you might see what I mean. Unless of course you are deciding to do what most of us do with this taboo subject and quickly click that back button.
Please don’t. This could be liberating.
Up until I was in my mid forties I was still playing football (Soccer for my American readers) against 20 somethings and holding my own. I could play 90 minutes and still out run the youngsters. Yes I was still really fit physically. I still am, for my age. But then I felt invincible.
Like I did when I was in my twenties. Like you probably did (And still do if you are twenty something).
Two torn calf muscles later and 4 months strapped in one of those ugly plastic boots, I gave up playing. I’ve rarely kicked a ball since.
But even after this event, I still felt invincible. I still couldn’t accept that my body wouldn’t…maybe even couldn’t…do what it once could. These aren’t limiting beliefs as I am still only 53, and my legs giving up on me only happened some 8 or 9 years previously.
I mean there are people in their 80’s, after heart attacks, running marathons, so there is some kind of sport I can still do. I have thought about senior football recently.
Anyway, this is not a blog about sport or my body. But I am making a point with it all.
That point is, it wasn’t until some years later that it dawned on me that I am not invincible; I am not immortal. One day, my epiphany told me, I am going to die.
Not long after this I happened to stumble upon an article about death. The mind is like that; it sees what it is focusing on or what has recently made a significant impression.
In this interesting read it gave an exercise to really think about your death. To actually visualise that one day you would be on your deathbed. You had to imagine, the author exclaimed in delight, your family around you looking at you with grief, knowing your time here was about to expire.
The author wanted you to picture this experience in as much morbid detail as you possibly could. He then posed a question at you:
Have you given all your dreams and goals your best shot? What would you tell your grandchild if they were there asking you if you had any regrets about your life and what you had or hadn’t accomplished?
This really got me thinking. It made me realise that I was indeed, mortal. I had no superpowers to evade death. Yet at the same time, like most people, the penny didn’t fully drop. Even on my workshops when I ask participants to write down what there epitaph would read or rather how they would like it to read when they die, it still didn’t hit me.
It wasn’t until a couple of months ago when I decided to play this macabre act out once more that it finally hit me, like a freight train, what the author wanted me to take away from his apparent sadistic writing.
Yes, by fully facing that one day I will leave this earth, forever, it gave me a sense of urgency. But not just that. It also made me realise that time is very precious (Something I am acutely aware of and have blogged about before) and that the time to act is now.
But what appears as a scary exercise to participate in is also very liberating. It gave me a sense of urgency to do as much of what I want to do as I can. I’m not talking about my bucket list here, it sort of goes deeper than that.
Really think about your death; that one day you are going to die. It creates urgency to get things done and strengthens your purpose
Until you do the exercise yourself and immerse into it, it’s kind of hard to explain. But it’s like shackles have been taken off me that I never knew were even there.
And far from this death thinking filling me full of fear, it has done the opposite. Any fear or fears that I didn’t realise I had but must have done, have left me.
Now, I am willing more than ever before, to take more calculated risks. Now, I really couldn’t give a $##$# what anyone thinks about me in any situation. I thought I was already totally rid of that nonsense but obviously not completely.
It has also made me feel more alive and full of energy. It’s deepened my purpose in life. It’s made me appreciate little things that life has to offer, more of the time.
Now, since that light has illuminated inside of me, I haven’t done this exercise since…and neither do I intend to..I just feel so ALIVE (I also don’t wish to die just yet; I’ve still got so much to achieve and do and I enjoy life more than ever).
Why not give it a go yourself? It might be one of the best exercises you have ever done or ever do.
It’s very strange, but by fully embracing death it can allow us to fully appreciate and live our life fully, freely and without fear. And, at the same time, make us feel more alive.