What’s a good death?

I recently went to a talk on The Art of Living and Dying by venerable Sogyal Rinpoche, one of the most highly regarded and world-renowned Buddhist leader of Tibet. The concept of death is the subject of much contemplation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, although not so much in the Theravadan tradition in Thailand. It is said that one’s state of mind at the moment of death has a major impact on one’s future lives.

Beneath the fear of death is the fear to face ourselves. The moment of death is the moment of truth.

As someone with Buddhist influence, I’ve talked about death pretty openly on this blog before. In fact, it’s even in the title of my first spirituality essay. Death is something I think about often, not due to the morbidity but its effect as the reminder of how I can live the rest of my life.

I want to die a good death. By that, I don’t mean to die without pain or die quickly, as are often associated with dying well. A good death to me simply means a good life–an intentional life filled with passion, purpose, gratitude, and love. One of my spiritual mentors once asked me: “If you’re on your deathbed, what would be the one thing you wished you have accomplished in life?” This, in my opinion, is the prime question that we should keep asking ourselves.

Dying well means living well. It means remembering to be mindful of every breathing moment and the limitless potential of the human mind. It means remembering to care, to love, to laugh, and to cry when we need to. It means not wasting our times on things that don’t matter to our physical, emotional or spiritual health. It also means letting go of things that hurt us.

A good death means being ready for death, because you never know whether your death or tomorrow will come first (according to the wise words of a Tibetan teacher). A good death is a good life.

May we all live well this 2016 and beyond.

May we all die well when our time comes.



2015 – A Year to Leave Behind

As we are about to enter 2016, I’m suddenly hit by a realization that I’ve just let 2015 slip by.

To kill time on a recent flight, I watched the movies Me, Earl and the Dying Girl as well as the movie Just the Way You Are, and somehow both movies (although one was just a romcom) proved to be quite surprising reminders that I cannot self-loath and hide behind the facade of a comfortable life. I cannot live my life alone without being vulnerable and putting myself out there.

As I was engaged in deep reflection on the plane, I looked out to the sea of clouds all perked up in its golden glory in reception of the rising sun. Hidden beneath those clouds were the beautiful mountains of the Alps, and vast blue lakes that embodied mystery and the limitless depth of nature. I realized then and there that I cannot simply remain idle. I have to change. I have to stop playing my game. I have to stop wasting my time with stupid tasks. I have to stop hiding in my shell.

The story of how the protagonist in Me, Earl and the Dying Girl slowly becomes attached to the cancer-stricken girl really spoke to me and told me that I’m perhaps ready for a relationship. I’m ready to find someone out there who can figure the mystery that is life together. I want someone out there who I can laugh and cry with. I want someone who share my pain for all the inequalities and discrimination in our world. I’ve always told myself that I’m not ready for a relationship because I haven’t figured out who I am yet. The truth is… I lied. I’ve always yearned to have someone beside me to figure this world out together. I just never knew where to look. I still don’t, but now I know I need to actually try.

In Just the Way You Are, the girl decided to not give her love to anyone because she’s been hurt in the past by the people she loved the most. She reasoned to herself that if you don’t love someone, you can’t be hurt by that person. I imagine such a shield is comprehensible to most INFJs (including me), who typically are very cautious of the world at large and rarely place our trust in anybody. Living like this may be safer than opening our hearts, but perhaps one misses out on the most sacred forms of beauty.

Both the movies spoke to me in different ways, and combined to send a sheer force that knocked me to my senses. I can no longer pretend that everything is okay. I can no longer pretend that I am fine. I can no longer lie that I am better off alone. At least I have to try to change things.

Next year, I hope to restart my mindfulness journey. I want to open my heart more and give. I’ve been rather selfish with my time and money. I’ve thought so much about myself in the last year, and it disgusts me. I have to change. I hope to start doing more volunteer work – both with my money and my time. I hope to allow more time for quiet in my life, so I can pause and reflect on what truly matters.

I hope to divide my time more wisely – not deprive myself of sleep and not waste too much time with entertainment. I hope 2016 will be a new me. In a way, this is the end of another chapter. It sure seems like it. I feel ready now. I’m entering a new phase, filled with hope of renewal and redemption. 2015 was a thoughtless year, but perhaps it was unavoidable. I needed to experience it so I can leave it behind. A purpose-driven life–and a happiness-filled one–is the promise of 2016 and beyond. I hope to fulfill that promise. I sense an imminent change. I sense a renewal. I sense a rebirth of the soul. I sense the deeply repressed thirst for spiritual growth and the yearning for harmony.

Yet I’m anxious, for I don’t believe that I can change. I’m anxious because I don’t know what the change will bring. I’m anxious because I know I haven’t been acting anywhere near my best self, and the collective weight of guilt and grief is suffocating. Today, I pray that I can garner enough the strength to lift the weight off me and start anew.

I still hope.

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever. — Isak Dinesen