Approaching Death

“To prepare oneself for death is to prepare oneself for freedom. The one who has learned to die has unlearned to be a slave.” – Montaigne

For the one thing in life that is absolutely certain, namely death, we seem to give it little attention. Whether it will creep upon us in the dead of night, or linger on into old age, there’s no certainty as to its manner, time or place. This no doubt casts us all into an existential predicament that we will eventually have to face one way or another.

What are we to do with this darken cloud just out of reach. Do we continue to ignore it and pretend that life is all that more fantastic as long as death remains at bay, out of sight and mind. Is there a way to accept this natural process without colouring the world with a grey morose or pretending that things are going to be ok based on some supernatural beliefs.

There’s no getting out of here alive, as the saying goes, so what can we do to prepare for death? For starters we can read about those who consciously approached their end, and then question what that means for us personally. Gazing upon art that captures the anguish of death may be another way to disengage from our angst about dying.

Being present to the notion of death can feel eerie, like leaning over a high balcony. It may be helpful to first bring calm to the mind before we reflect upon this existential state. Going for a walk in nature, or practising mindfulness meditation  can be an ideal way to centre ourselves, if not a warm bath with candles and ambient music.

Here are a few quotes related to death to open your mind and heart. Notice how the body feels as you reflect upon them. Neither be enthralled nor reject the emotions as they surface. Let them be as they are, and gently keep your mind on one quote at a time as though it were a constant question, rather than a means to affirm or negate its meaning.

“Do not despise death, but be well content with it, since this too is one of those things which nature wills.” – Marcus Aurelius

“You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last.” – Marcus Aurelius

“It is one of the noblest functions of reason to know whether it is time to walk out of the world or not.” – Marcus Aurelius

Take your time with each one of these quotes and be open to new ways of perceiving and feeling them. For to embrace death, to be ever ready for it in body & mind, allows one to be fully alive and attentive to the unending process and unfolding of life. We can face the unbearable with integrity & resolve, rather than with cowardliness & sophistry.

“Whoever tries to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life will preserve it.” When we strive after the things of this world, life has a way of entombing us, but when we let go, when we relinquish our hold upon things, when we learn to let be, then our inner child can be free, to know the wonder of autonomy, and participate in creativity.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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8 Responses to Approaching Death

  1. This is such a contemplative read Jason. Great quotes too! For life is short, a lightening flash in the darkness. You leave me wondering how many times do we die? Hundreds? Perhaps even more as there are so many ways to die … depression, collapse, isolation, intoxication, exaltation, failure, psychosis, disassociation, amnesia, denial, pain … are a few that come to mind. Our lives seem to be a series of resurrections! Blessings always, Deborah.

  2. Yes! Being at peace about death is a blessing in life 🙂

  3. Hi Jason, I just re-visited one of your earlier posts after reading this one – thanks for the tip – I just ordered Critchley’s book. Cheers

  4. JC says:

    As they say, all things must pass and so will dying as a thing but what is beyond the idea of death? After we’ve passed the ten-thousand things of this world where has it gotten us but to more questions. Death is the biggest secret there is and that’s why it’s so compelling.

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