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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The gift of accepting our mortality

We all know that we will die someday, but very few of us want to think about that. Indeed, thinking about anyone's death is depressing enough. Thinking about our own death could make us extremely uncomfortable, especially because it inevitably leads to so many other questions: How will it happen? When? Where? Who will be around? What happens after our death? Will anything happen at all? It takes courage to contemplate on these existential questions, and many people therefore come up with a wide range of reasons why they would rather avoid doing so. Some might say that it is against their religious beliefs; others claim that they may get depressed and lose their zest for life, and yet others may simply feel that it's a waste of their time.

Yet, there is another side to accepting our mortality, which could lead to greater mindfulness in our day-to-day activities. Regularly realizing that we will die may help us in becoming less attached to all the things we now consider so important. The nature and quality of our decisions, relationships, and our entire way of carrying ourselves, could be greatly influenced by this realization. Those of us who lost close family members or friends can relate to this sense very well. When confronted with death, our awareness rises, and we review our lives from a greater distance. We suddenly realize the triviality of so many of our actions: our excessive focus on job security, our obsession for prestige and power, our eternal hunger for more money and other status symbols, and our overrated and enduring emotions when others say or do things that hurt our feelings.

The main reason why our mortality is not often acknowledged as a gift is because it does not seem like the most pleasant or cheerful one. Only when we think deeper about the positive effects this gift could have on the overall quality of our lives (less stress over things and positions, and more peace of mind), and the positive effects this could have on others, can we fully appreciate this gift – a gift that is ours, whether we want to accept it or not: the gift of our mortality.

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