Making Peace With Death

April 29th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

While I have a strong drive to enjoy my physical life, I know — really know — it’s just temporary.  Against the backdrop of eternity, our human lives are very, very short… little more than a cosmic wink.  Some people treat that as a serious problem, but it really doesn’t have to be.

When someone crosses over, such as my grandparents did a few years ago, in my mind they’re doing just fine on the other side.  It may be a shock for some when it happens, especially if the death is sudden and/or violent, but that alone doesn’t make it tragic.

It’s totally unnecessary to resist death, fear it, treat it like a disaster.  Death just is.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big whoop.  It’s like waking up from a nap and thinking, “Wow, that was a cool dream.”  Many dead people regard it like a graduation.

I feel great compassion not for those who die, but rather for the inherently broken way we’re socially conditioned to view death.  We’re taught to root ourselves to the temporary — the perfect recipe for guaranteed suffering.

There’s no such thing as a needless death.  We all need to die.  We need to go through that graduation and progress to the next phase of existence.  These physical lives are supposed to be temporary.  In case you haven’t noticed, there are no permanent humans.  The billions of bodies that walk the earth today are all mortal.  Some may delay their death, maybe for a seemingly long time, but it’s a safe bet that eternity will win out in the end.

I suspect this attachment to the temporary stems from doubts over the continuity of life after death.  If you’d had the experiences Erin and I have had, you wouldn’t worry about it so much.  It definitely takes some skill and practice to tune into them, but I’ve managed to do it myself from time to time.  The #1 factor is being able to relax your beliefs that it’s impossible, and especially that it’s impossible for you.

While some people rely on their faith to make peace with death, I put more trust in first-hand experience.  It’s one thing to read third-party accounts and to try to convince yourself that life after death is possible.  It’s quite another to channel a dead relative of someone you’ve never met and bring them to tears because you’re able to give them so much verifiable validation.  While you may be suspicious of the motives of a stranger who claims to be a psychic medium, you don’t have to worry about that when you’re making the attempt yourself.  In my opinion direct experience is the best teacher.

Have you ever thought about how you’d like to die?  Assuming you had a choice, how would you like to cross over?  Personally I think getting riddled with bullets would be a good way to go.  Really go out with a bang.  I’d prefer that as opposed to dying in my sleep (which could be confusing) or succumbing to a protracted illness (too slow).  I think I’d like a little adrenaline surge on the way out.  When you look down and see your clothes soaked in blood and notice the intense pain everywhere, you know your time is up.  It’s hard to mistake it for anything else.  In that case you have the opportunity to consciously witness and embrace your moment of crossing over.  If there’s a lot of pain, death becomes a welcome relief, something you actually look forward to.  I imagine it would be rather exhilarating if you don’t resist it.

OK, perhaps that’s a bit gruesome.  But I figure if someone feels the need to kill me on purpose, I’ve probably lived an interesting life.  Just don’t be too harsh on whoever does it.  I want to figure out how to haunt them from the other side and have some fun with them first… all in the name of personal growth of course.  ;)

The prevailing social views would encourage you to dismiss my perspective on death as being insensitive, dissociated, or perhaps psychopathic.  Try to see that there’s a deeper level of compassion at work here though.  I’m not trying to belittle the emotional pain people experience when their loved ones die.  Rather I’m suggesting that death itself is not the source of that pain.  The source of that pain is the unhealthy attachment to that which is by definition temporary.  This realization is a way to genuinely transcend that pain by uncovering a greater truth, not a futile attempt to hide behind a shield of denial.

I know it’s easy for people to jump to the conclusion that I’m adopting a dissociative perspective in order to avoid dealing with my own fear of death… a diagnosis that invariably comes from those who’ve never met me.  In my teen years, I did in fact experience that dissociative state, while deep down I was deathly afraid of death.  That was followed by many years of gradual transformation, much of it through inquiry, introspection, and some fascinating paranormal experiences.  If you allow your compassion to broaden and deepen instead of keeping it fixed on the notion that a tragedy has occurred, it can take you to a new level of awareness.  This isn’t a dissociative place but rather a fully associative one.  At this point you begin to see death for what it really is, a far cry from what our social conditioning teaches us.

Death is a tremendously valuable companion.  It’s a constant reminder never to take our lives for granted.  It’s here to teach us to fully embrace and appreciate each present moment.  But its greatest lesson is that the path to joy is to live in such a way that you feel ready to die in each and every moment.

Ask yourself this question, “Am I ready to die right now?”  If your answer is no, then what is it about your life that makes you feel unready?  What is death trying to teach you about how you’re currently living?  Are you holding back too much, giving into your fears, letting golden opportunities pass you by?  Are you failing to honor your most sacred values?  Is your path missing its heart?  What do you wish you’d had the courage to change?

These questions are important subjectively as well as objectively.  From an objective perspective, there is indeed a chance you could die at any moment, regardless of your age or apparent health, and living incongruently with this fact is to live in denial.  To move beyond this denial, you must find a way to make peace with death itself, your own as well as the inevitable deaths of everyone else who’s still alive.

You don’t have to reach some arbitrary destination on the achievement ladder to feel ready to die.  That isn’t how it works.  I certainly haven’t accomplished all I’d like to in this life, nor have I had all the experiences I’d like to have.  But I do feel ready to die right now, and that’s why I don’t fear or resist death, and I certainly don’t consider it a tragedy.  I think the key factor is that while I may be slightly disappointed that there were certain things I didn’t have time to finish, I wouldn’t have any major regrets about the path I was on or the man I’d become.  I could cross over with a clear conscience, knowing that while I certainly wasn’t perfect, I know I did my best, and I know my motives were honorable.  Reaching that state is, I believe, how we can best make peace with death and fully embrace the joys of living.

When death tells you you’re on the wrong path, the solution isn’t to run away and hide.  The solution is to listen even more deeply, acknowledge the truths you’ve been avoiding, and make the difficult changes that have been staring you in the face.  Failing to accept death’s lessons is the real tragedy.



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