Ahh…so refreshing 🙂
What if the doctor told you had only 6 months left to live? How would you live your life?
What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you go and see? What would you do on a daily basis? What would you commit the rest of your life to? How would you utilize your remaining time? What would really matter to you then that doesn’t matter to you now? And what matters to you now that wouldn’t matter to you then?
What would you stop doing? What would you start doing? What would you do more of? What would you do less of?
How would you live out the remainder of your days?
And when your time finally comes and you leave the body, what would people say about you at your funeral? What would you want to be said? And how can you live now so that you ensure those words are said, not because you tell someone to say them, but because you lived them fully?
Nothing like some deep reflection and contemplation to gain (or regain) a wholesome, grounded perspective on life.
The truth is, none of know when our time is going to come. Today very well might be our last day – who knows! (Disclaimer: apparently the scriptures do say that the time of death is already pre-determined and set at birth, but how we die is not – so if one was really sincere and pure of heart, one could probably know the time of one’s death by using muscle testing, but alas – for the purposes of this – let us pretend that we cannot know when the time comes 🙂 – or at least that we do not know currently.)
Death is sneaky, is it not? It pounces on so many unexpectedly, each day. It lurks in the shadows behind the unaware. But, to the awake – it sits peacefully around them – for the awake are not afraid of death – so death gives up the game of trying to scare them and becomes friendly toward them.
When we muster the courage to consciously face death and consider its implication, death becomes one of our greatest servants. Living in the light of death is incredibly powerful to awaken us to a higher order of being.
If we walk into a store and consider we might die tomorrow, the chances of us being friendly and kind toward the people in the store increases dramatically. If, on the other hand, we live in the ignorance of thinking we will live forever in this human form and that we are invulnerable to death, then we may forget other people are around us and instead live in the world of our own internal drama.
Generally, I prefer love as a motivator rather than fear, although if we let the fear of death, or rather the awareness of the possibility of death, motivate us, then at least that will help wake us up to the opportunity and gift of this lifetime. Human birth is rare indeed, hence the Great Teachers like the Buddha urge us to make use of this lifetime and wake up to the Supreme Realization, the Ultimate Truth of Reality – or at least to pursue it to the very best of our ability!
It is easy to understand sense pleasures and the desire to spend an entire life eating cookies and cake, having sex or masturbating all the time, listening to music and watching movies non-stop. Our primitive self understands the short-term, fleeting pleasure of life that come today and go tomorrow. What is more difficult for us to understand is the Truth of Reality – that which is Permanent and Real. The power of living in the context of death is that it may awaken us to the idea of living for the Permanent, rather than the impermanent.
The movie Groundhog Day comes to mind. In that movie, the lead character basically receives a strange blessing/curse where he lives the same day over and over again. Every morning he wakes up and it is Groundhog Day. Eventually, he catches on to the idea that this situation might go on forever, so in many ways he realizes he is living in the midst of Eternity. Initially, in his first few days/weeks of living the same day over and over again, he lives a self-centered, egoistic life. He pursues his carnal pleasures and appetites. He goes to a diner and orders a whole plate of donuts, and he attempts to sleep with various women. He is focused on getting and gaining for himself. Only gradually, as he lives the same day over and over again, does he realize that selfishly seeking pleasure and gain just for himself is not as rewarding or fulfilling as we might naturally think. He discovers that there is actually a much greater fulfillment found in living to serve others. He goes on to live his Groundhog Day focused on serving others, giving wherever he can, saving lives, catching people falling out of trees, bringing people coffee in the morning, entertaining people, and generally – loving people! The great joys of Loving and Serving transform his life, for the best. Finally, he lives what appears to be a perfectly selfless day, where he does nothing for himself but simply lives only to be of service. He wakes up the next morning and it is no longer Groundhog Day, and he receives the great fortune of going on to live the next day and the rest of his life having learned one of the greatest lessons of all: “Joy in life comes from living for the welfare of all.” – Mahatma Gandhi
So, whether we feel like the man in Groundhog Day and think we might live forever, or if we live with the consideration that we might very well die today, tomorrow, or 6 months from now – we generally arrive at the same conclusion: Some things matter, and some things don’t. When we live our life aligned with the things that truly matter, we experience great peace and joy, supreme satisfaction and fulfillment. When we live our live serving the things that don’t matter and satisfying our short-term sense cravings and pleasures, we experience a momentary spike in enjoyment, but just as quickly as it came, so it goes. The piece of cake only leaves us wanting more donuts and less fat on our bodies. We can never win that way.
Don’t get me wrong – I think donuts are great and will happily eat one – especially if it is given to me as a gift. The point is, what really matters? Does satisfying the sense cravings matter, or does serving others? What will make me happy not only in this moment, but also an hour from now, three hours from now, three weeks from now, three years from now, and for the rest of my life? One of the best investments we can make is in developing a positive, generous, loving, grateful, and service-oriented attitude. With an inclination to be of service wherever we go, wherever we are – we can live and be anywhere – freely and fearless. In any moment, if we are willing to give of ourselves, to give of our very best, to give everything we have, what is there to fear? Fear only arises when we are holding back, when we live in the illusion of separateness, when we think we can take our earthly treasures with us beyond the grave. What is there to fear if we are loving fully and completely, giving without reserve, and holding nothing back? If we are giving our best, and even if our best looks pathetic, we at least having nothing to regret. If we live this moment to the fullest, we can live with peace in our hearts and die without regrets.
What would you regret if you died today? Would you feel like you feel fulfilled in the service you rendered for humanity and God? Would you be able to look back on your life with a sense of great peace in all that you did and how you develop a human being and spiritual being? If not, what would you change about how you are living now so that you would feel better about the life you lived on your death bed?
Whenever we are feeling down about life, we can ask, “What is the worst that can happen?” Even if the answer is, “Death,” what is the worst thing about death? Did we somehow think we were going to avoid it forever? Did we think that our human animal would be exempt from death?
Human life is a great gift, and yet death is not so bad either. Death can serve us if we wake up to it. Death is an incredible servant. Being at Peace with death helps us to love life. And, if we can be at peace with death, we can live in peace during our life.
Every moment is a gift. Every moment contains the possibility of life or death. There is no guarantee as far as the human can be aware of (except for the enlightened few!).
If we think to ourselves, “What would I do if I only had 6 months left to live?” and the answer comes that we would quit our job – why not quit the job now? Why wait?
Why would we ever have a job in the first place if we don’t love and enjoy it? Why would we ever subject ourselves to misery? Did we forget that we are Children of God and worthy of all the very best that life has to offer? Did we forget that God takes care of the birds, so why would we he not take care of us?
When we remember we are worthy of all the very best life has to offer, and as a rule we should live with joy and peace in our hearts as best we can, then we still doing things out of fear. Sometimes, we do a job we don’t like to do because we have a fear of scarcity that would lead to our demise. We think, “If I don’t have this job, how will I make money, and how will I feed myself, and how will I survive? I know I don’t like this job, but I have to do it to make money so I can survive.” Well…if that’s the case…what is the point of even perpetuating your own existence if you aren’t enjoying it – what kind of service is that providing to anyone?
We think that the service we offer to humanity is in the things that we do – but really more powerful than anything we do in the water is who and what we have become. Our level of consciousness – you could say our level of alignment with Love, Peace, and Truth – is more valuable and powerful than anything we can tangibly do with our physical body in the world. Even if we give an inspiration talk to 10,000 people that transforms them all into vegetarians and thereby saves 1,000,000 animals’ lives, what does it matter if we have not love in our hearts? One fully enlightened counterbalances the negativity of all of humanity. Becoming unconditionally loving and perfectly peaceful is a far greater service than anything we can do on the worldly plane. To live in true peace, we must remember that what really matters is not what we do, but what we become. The Unseen Essence of our Life and Being is far more powerful than the minutia of our day-to-day living and daily tasks.
Even considering this service of writing, what is truly valuable in this writing is not the words, but really the energy I feel when writing. Writing this way opens my heart and aligns me more with Truth, Love, and Service, raising my level of consciousness and serving everyone. Even if no one ever reads these words, this process has greatly served. And, for anyone that may read these words, the service is not so much in the intellectual processing of the words but what kind of mark the words may leave on your life as a whole and how they may facilitate any transformation of character or consciousness.
As I’ve heard said, real education leads to behavioral change. If there is no behavioral change, there is no education. Keep in mind, behavioral change can be subtle, like even the slightest increased tendency to smile at people who pass you on the street or who ring up your groceries at the store. In the case of this writing, the practical value may just be an increased tendency to ponder life and death and to consider, “How would I live if I only had 6 months left to live?”
In today’s world, we might think giving anyone 6 months to live is even generous. It may only be 3 months! But, I think Brian Tracy asked the question with the 6 month time frame because that amount of time actually allows for significant accomplishments on the worldly level. In 6 months, one could probably travel around a far bit of the world, or write a book, or do all sorts of things. 3 months might be too gloomy of an outlook. Ultimately the point remains the same. This life is a gift. It is sacred, and best enjoyed when cherished. God is present at all times, everywhere. There is no place where God is not. Humans are not the holes in the swiss cheese to God – yes, God fills even us. So in any moment is the possibility of awakening to the Divine Presence, and with an awakening like that, every moment reveals itself as totally Full, Complete, and Perfect. Beauty is evident. There is only Love.
When I consider only having 6 months left to live (especially after the process of writing the), it becomes apparent that pursuing the spiritual goal is the most valuable focus. As the saying goes, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else shall be added unto you.” Even if I did want to have the whole world, the best way to achieve that is seek first the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom Within.
Nonetheless, I guess I still cling somewhat to the illusion of the world and the idea of serving people rather than just focusing directly on serving and loving God the whole time…but that’s probably not such a bad thing 😉 So, because I currently have some sense of “wanting” to contribute to humanity and offer the best of what I have, I also like the idea of writing. With 28 years of living, and having done some pretty cooky things, I probably have some valuable words to share – yet then again, I would choose reading the New Testament over these words any day 😉 At the same time, we are all different points along the journey, so even if the New Testament is a more powerful spiritual text than these words (more aligned with the Supreme, Love, etc.) for some people along the journey, they are not ready for those words, and these words may serve them better – so who knows!
As I mentioned before, I do feel the primary value of these words is the process I am experiencing, and any benefit to the readers is secondary. Level of consciousness matters supremely – so if these words raise my consciousness – that is fantastic! – and by raising the level of the sea, all boats are lifted. Serving one serves all. We are not separate. We are One. Likewise, if these words raise your level of consciousness, Hallelujah! And that serves the All as well.
So what really matters?
With only 1 day left to live, 6 months, or an Eternity, what really matters is the same.
The Great Spiritual Texts – The New Testament, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Upanishads, Zohar, Cloud of Unknowing, Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, etc. – all are like direct gifts from God to humanity. It is absurd how powerful they are. The truths contained in such scriptures may make absolutely no sense to the ego and to the intellectual, rational mind, but with enough courage and willingness to test out the teachings and put them into practice in your day-to-day life, all the truths reveal themselves as self-evident. Scriptures come from direct experience, not mere philosophizing.
We need to own our identity as Divine and realize that the experiences of Christ, Buddha, Mother Theresa, St. Francis, Moses, etc., are all available to us. We are not separate. Christ lives within everyone one of us. Doesn’t He say, “And greater works shall you do.” ?
And greater works shall you do! Love is infinitely powerful. It is more powerful than fear. One loving thought counterbalances all the negative thoughts one could think in a day. “Perfect Love casts out fear.”
Choose Love. Choose Peace.
Would knowing how long you are going to live with the physical form you now have change the way you live? How so? How would you live if you only had 1 day to live? 1 week? 1 month? 1 year?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we lived in such a way that we would choose to live that way regardless of how long we were destined to live? When we are doing our very best and truly listening to our heart and deepest calling in life, there is nothing to fear and there is only Love. Then it doesn’t matter when we live or die, because in this very moment, we are giving our all, for all the All.
Glory to God in the Highest! All Power and All Glory is Thine, O Lord. Amen.
Note: This exercise was first introduced to me by Brian Tracy, and some of the guiding questions also come from Stephen Covey and Bob Proctor. So grateful for all the wonderful teachers 🙂