Dying is inevitability an uncomfortable topic to think about. However, life is a journey and, unfortunately, death is a part of it. Spirituality, prayer, and religion are some things that can help you come to terms with the cycle of life. Katy Butler, author of THE ART OF DYING WELL, shares how spirituality brings comfort to many.
The first two-thirds of life are usually dedicated to learning skills; building a life, a career, and a family; and achieving worldly status. The last third of life has developmental tasks of its own. These generally involve shifting from individualistic striving to greater generosity, and reflecting on what all that work meant. The challenge, and the satisfaction, is to give back to the world something of what you’ve learned and become. Quiet reflection can aid in the shift from self-absorption to generosity, from striving to letting go, from mourning losses to accepting what is.
Many people return to their childhood religions in later life, or explore other approaches to spirituality. Consider doing so, perhaps by spending half an hour in silence at the same time each day. You might get up before the rest of the household and find a private spot that you can make beautiful with a flower, photo, or view. Some people just sit, enjoying the sensation of breathing, and letting their thoughts come and go. Others say prayers, read poetry or religious texts, or follow a recorded guided meditation. The key is to find a practice that nurtures you, and to do it faithfully, at the same time each day, until your body gets used to the routine. Daily rituals of simply being rather than doing become more important as time goes by. When death comes, you need to be comfortable with simply being, because there is nothing left to do but let go.
Consider making the contemplation of death a part of your spiritual practice, as do many wisdom traditions. It won’t make you die any sooner and it may help you appreciate your life today more keenly. “I am of the nature to grow old,” goes a chant repeated each day by monks and nuns in many Buddhist temples:
There is no way I can escape growing old.
I am of the nature to get sick. There is no way I can escape getting sick.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way I can escape death.
Everything and everyone I love will change. There is no way I can escape being separated from them.
My deeds are my only companions. They are the ground on which I stand.
Around the world in the autumn, during Rosh Hashanah services, Jewish congregations recite that only G-d knows who, in the following year “shall perish by fire and who by water; who by sword, and who by beast; who by hunger and who by thirst.” A human being is “as the grass that withers, as the flower that fades, as a fleeting shadow, as a passing cloud, as the wind that blows, as the floating dust, yea, even as a dream that vanishes.” I find these natural images beautiful and comforting. They remind me that transience, sickness, aging, and death are not the signs of failure they’ve come to seem in our can-do society. We are part of an eternal cycle of birth, growth, and decay.
Discover more advice on coping with death in THE ART OF DYING WELL by Katy Butler!
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Excerpted fromTHE ART OF DYING WELL by Katy Butler. Copyright © 2019 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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