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Befriend Death and We Shall Find a Keen Life


So many of us are running as fast as we can away from death with the winds of unbridled fear blowing at our backs.  The reality is that the day we are born, is the day we begin our journey to death.

The Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi, said “befriend death, the ultimate teacher.”    Death brings composure to life.

There are Four Noble Truths noted in the central doctrine of the Buddhist tradition that explain the nature of suffering.

The First Noble Truth – there is dukkha (there is suffering).

It is in our acceptance of suffering and death that we find the key to a keen life.  And, so it is. It is not just mere acceptance of suffering and death, but it is an acceptance of death infused with love and calm that moves us toward a very aware and profound life of joy and peace.  Where is the calm in facing death? It’s a lifelong process of working several spiritual tenets, processing them, practicing them, and accepting that we will transcend form and fuse into spirit. Practicing the acceptance of the First Noble Truth is key.

Dukkha (suffering) is the key to the art of connection, for without it how do we really understand and practice compassion? Our friends and our ‘enemies’ suffer.  Our primal needs are love and connection, and if we can’t understand or accept someone else’s love, what then shall we connect to?  We all know suffering and can very easily identify with suffering of others, and it is in that that the fiery spark of love enters in the connection. What is a healthy way of keeping suffering in our awareness?  The Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice called Tonglen (giving and taking or sending and receiving).


In meditation, focus your attention on breathing in the darkness and pain from others’ suffering spirits and breathe out light, love, and blessings back to the sufferer.  You can also practice Tonglen for the entire suffering collective conscious.

When we practice Tonglen, we practice letting go of selfish attachment and develop and expand lovingkindness.  We begin to accept suffering and death with love and a sense of equanimity.  Death teaches us to embrace life in each moment as it is.   Tonglen practice helps guide us to embrace each chaotic moment with more clarity, freedom, and love.

There is a relevant zen proverb here “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”  What are you waiting for?  Live your life today like there is no tomorrow.  Go tell her you love her, forgive yourself for the harsh words, make amends with your loved one, climb the mountain now because now is the only life you have.

Chop wood, carry water, and carry on.

Om Shanti Om ~ Athea


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