The moment we think of mortality, we think it’s a morbid concept. One of the things I have most internalised from Swami Ji’s teachings is occasionally reminding myself of mortality. Using it to shift my perspective and make better decisions.
For example, when I need to have a crucial conversation with my girlfriend, my mother, myself or making any important decision, I ask myself this question: What would I do if I only had 7 days to live?
Why did I pick this question, for that you must watch this video of Swami Ji:
Interestingly, it’s also one of the most viewed videos of Swami Ji.
I remember listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast a few years ago with a palliative care expert BJ Miller. What I took away is that spending time with people who are nearing the end of their lifespan can be incredibly helpful in putting life in perspective.
When I see some elderly people at the store or during my walks, sometimes I take a moment and remind myself that that’s my future, that’s where I am heading. It brings a healthy level of dispassion and detachment in me, a feeling of freedom.
The Dalai Lama was asked what surprised him most about humanity. He answered, “He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
I think our perspective of our own mortality can significantly improve the quality of our life, as long as we are able to understand and apply the understanding with mindfulness. It’s a tool, if you will, at our disposal that human beings can benefit.
Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by then and knew he had limited time left on earth. Here is what he said about death.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
I think this speech sums up a lot about how our perspective on our own mortality can be a wonderful tool to live, laugh and love.