Inner-life affects every part of worldly-life. Most plans and goals arise from the desire to improve our worldly life; to help our family do well, to progress our careers, increase finances, and maintain and build social connections. Plans and goals…
Add up all the stories told from deathbeds; the regrets, confessions, sorrows, secrets, petitions for forgiveness, and desperate calls to turn back the clock, and we have an infinite library of tragedy.
I must change my life so that I can live it. Not wait for it.
— Susan Sontag
Death’s Day is coming — today, tomorrow, or it could be decades away.
Good health and youth do not protect anyone from death’s decision.
When death calls your name, you must go.
In my late teens, I almost died in a car accident, but death let me off the hook.
Not long after, death called my best friend, then my father.
I pushed their deaths into the shadow and ran into the light but soon discovered that chasing light created too many fears and even bigger shadows.
Then I found a wise teacher and teachings that led me back to the darkness to befriend death. Since that time I have allowed myself to remain with the awareness of death and this has driven me to interact with life more purposefully and joyfully.
In this essay, I reveal the 7 things I have learned about regret and death:
- Take a leaf from the Top 5 Regrets
- Explore other cultures
- Break the silence around death in daily life
- Learn the skill of change and letting go
- Meditate on death
- Interact with myths, art, and symbols of death
- Express your experience of death
1. Take A Leaf From The Top 5 Regrets
What we can learn from those near death, is that regret is the greatest pain.
Nurse Bronnie Ware spent 12 years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She collected stories and published a book, The Top Five Regrets Of Dying.
My friend Ann Marie is a nurse who worked in palliative care for twenty years. She carries her patient’s stories so deeply that being with her is sometimes heartbreaking.
Together these nurses have thousands of stories, and yet their top 5 regrets are identical.
Dr Swami Shankardev reflects on a powerful new book about the challenges of ageing and how we regard dying in our society.
I have recently read a wonderful book called Being Mortal and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, a Professor in both the departments of Health Policy Management and the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. I found the book well written, lucid and riveting.
Professor Gawande describes the problem of ageing in our technically advanced world, in which we have achieved greater quantity of life but perhaps at the expense of greater quality of life. He examines the evolution of the nursing home and describes how, for many people, the experience of dying has become something abhorrent and something to be avoided in conversation because we have seen so many people endure distressing deaths.
Ageing, a taboo topic
Perhaps we are ageing and dying poorly due to the fact that we as a society are unable to discuss or deal with the subject of our own mortality and thus we are not taking intelligent steps to create a better old age and a better death for ourselves.
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