A comment from Bhairav Nath Shukla, a man who manages what some call the ‘Hotel of Death’ struck a chord with me. I read some articles about this spiritual place in Varanasi, India. It's called Mukti Bhavan or ‘Salvation House’; where people come to die in peace. He has seen over 12000 deaths and expressed some amazing insights from some of his guests. The one that sunk in for me was this...
“In the last days of their life, a lot of people can’t speak, walk or communicate with as much ease as they could, earlier. So they turn inwards. And start to remember the things that made their heart sing once. Things that they cared to learn more about over the course of their life, which enriches their days now.”
I went ahead in time (assuming I have time) and looked at myself on my death bed. I watched my ability to use words fade into the ticking clock. I saw my expressions lose their elasticity, and my body paralysed. But then I imagined a little light in my hazel eyes. A glistening of joy as I dove into my memories to comfort my dying physical form.
I imagine all the things I created that made people laugh, smile, grow and cry with joy. The moment's people felt comforted, accepted, inspired and excited with my presence. Helping people. The beauty I saw in all corners of the world and the diversity I welcomed with open arms. The languages I spoke. The colours I felt on my skin from the landscapes I walked on and swam through. The food I tasted that woke me up and made me feel such a deep pleasure. The stories shared with strangers, who expanded my views on the world. My efforts in loving anyone I came into contact with. People I loved to hug and kiss and who loved having hugs with me. Looking at their eyes wrinkle as they smile right next to my cheek in a warm embrace. Laughing so much that my knees buckled in bliss. Making passionate love to those who loved me exactly the way I was. Letting music fill my body and expressing myself.
Achieving fulfillment through service to others, whilst using my gifts made for the world.
Dancing into infinite rapture with crowds of people or alone in my bedroom. Singing every day. Catching a wave and being out of breath. My family and their achievements. Creating my own beautiful family, raised with open minds, open hearts, and open souls. Who go out into the world and spread their unique contributions and messages to leave the world in a better place. And finally, the perfect happiness that was loving the weird person I was. Appreciating how I approached life and choosing to think for myself and not how the world expected me to think. This one is really important to me. If I'm lucky enough to have this time to reflect on my life and only see how judgemental I was on myself, my body and way of being. I would be so disappointed. The little flaws I loved less would be the very things I would celebrate to comfort my character when I'm dying. That's not to say we don't all have things we can improve on. But I mean if you fill your life with self hatred, you'll get to the end of it and either hate yourself to death. Which is such a waste of a beautiful human. Or if you have the chance to catch yourself you'll regret not giving your unique character the chance to be a different kind of human. And impact the world in your own way.
Maybe we won't have the luxury of a death bed. Which makes this concept even more poignant. We don't know when we will die, but death is guaranteed. So if you imagine today is the day, would you be happy with what your mind chooses to reflect on? We may not have full cognitive ability near the end of our life. But even if we have lost it, at least the brief bursts of light could be ones of fulfillment, joy, and connection. And not regret, anxiety or the guilt of not living a life that is rich in the things that filled our soul. Not superficial needs and wants conditioned by our economical, social, religious or political circles. Or time lost with people we were angry, upset or disconnected with and too proud to take responsibility and be vulnerable. Or only pursuing pleasure and achieving no real growth as a result. This exercise was eye opening. And I recommend it to everyone who needs a decent reality check.
How will you comfort your dying body when all you have are your memories and thoughts? Especially if you can’t guarantee your loved ones will be by your side.
The things that I worry about now I wouldn’t even consider in that list. I would forget about the fear of taking a risk to do something I’m passionate about. It’s the adventure of life to learn about it and grow through it that we reflect on. Not the fear. The fear is so hard to recall because the lesson or success overrides it, making the pain redundant. I guess what is good to learn from this exercise is to notice what isn't in that list, that I am focusing on now. What thoughts or activities aren't serving me and could be replaced with a more rewarding thought or activity to add to the list. Also it gives me an insight to how I want my life to end up. With this information I can start to backward engineer rough steps necessary to achieve those goals. And maybe even dream bigger. Why not!?
Please don’t deny yourself of a big life because of what others may think or because a few things may hurt in the process. Our mind and body can heal from trauma's big or small (before we die) - it’s a choice and a skill to develop. Two people can be in the same situation and react differently due to their own perspectives. I have a friend who was heavily medicated for depression. They made a conscious decision to change the way their brain worked. They threw out most of their medication and endured the retraining of pathways in the brain. This particular practice is called Neuroplasticity. It was a combination of 'fake it till you make it' exercises and re-engaging with love - giving and receiving. Now, a few years on - not reliant on medication. Still working through the same mental trials we all experience with specialised support at times. But unburdened from the stereotype of ‘depression’ as some sort of dead end street, with only one solution to maintain stability.
It’s not easy learning how to open our minds. Or strengthen its ability to accept and override certain aspects of the human condition.
In fact, we can’t do it without getting outside of our comfort zones. We can do all the theory we like, watch people talking and read everything I’m saying. But 'action' is the only class we need to take in making it real. Mel Robbins ‘5 Second Rule’ is the perfect tool for this. Instead of waiting for motivation (which will never happen), you move into action in spite of your self-sabotaging thoughts. Similar to the 'fake it till you make it' concept.
Playing it safe is now the scariest lifestyle I could think of having. I want my death-bed-memory-bank to be overflowing with things that make my heart sing. So if I'm lucky, even when I’m passing away i’m doing it through the memories of a wonderful life I will choose to live right now.
Here’s to an enriching life! Ready now.