Why we should talk more about death
Last week at our heart to heart talk (a meetup event I host in Melbourne that encourages people to talk about big issues in life), the topic I picked was Death. A topic I’ve been dying to talk about.
Death and sex seem to be the two biggest taboos in our society. Both are so relevant in our life (world death rate holding steady at 100%), yet we never seem to dare to talk about it, openly. Our expensive education never taught us about what happens when we die nor how to make love, let alone to enlighten us on many other relevant and significant matters in life.
The lack of understanding and knowledge about death may lead to harmful attitudes and unnecessary conditioning that prevent us from pursuing a more fulfilling and happier life.
The first question we discussed was ‘how do you feel about death?’.
It was interesting to see how many of us have not really given too much thought about death until we brought up this topic. Yet a lot of decisions in life we make are fear-based… the fear of death. If we don’t know what death is, why are we so afraid of it?
Why is death always associated with so much negativity and fear? What if death is actually a peaceful experience?
My first close encounter with death happened when I was 22, when my father died in an unexpected tragedy. Apart from crying hysterically for more than one month and not knowing what to do, that was also when I had my first ‘OH-MY-FUCKING-GOD’ moment and a sudden and strong realisation hit me — ‘one day I would also die, we will all die’ (although the knowledge was always there, but I think most of the time we live as if we will not die).
At that time, I was not spiritual, I was a straight hard-core atheist, didn’t believe in God, reincarnation et cetera, my existence was deeply rooted in the material world. I was stuck in a long term relationship that had no love (but security), studying a degree I had no interest in (but promising future according to our society), pursuing a future that I didn’t know.
I didn’t know who I was nor the kind of life I wanted to lead. I was like a sheep, just following the crowd. But my father’s death was a powerful wake up call for me. All of a sudden I realised that there is actually an end to my life, so why did I keep on living like this?
As soon as that realisation sank in, I broke up with my then boy-friend (we were either going to break up or engage, thankfully I took the leap). I also went on a trip to America by myself, stepping out of my comfort zone and reconnecting with myself. Travelling has always been one of my biggest passions and one thing I decided in this lifetime is that I should really see the world, travel as much as I could (that was also the dream of my dad, unfortunately he didn’t have the time, or more accurately didn’t make the time for it).
My second even closer encounter with Death was when I had my near-death experience at the age of 24 during scuba diving in Fiji.
Fiji is renowned for its open water shark diving, so when I first saw the advertisement at the hotel lobby, I immediately signed up for it (my soul has a taste for adventure). But in order to dive with sharks, one needs to be a PADI certified scuba diver, so I also signed up for the training course.
On the second day of the open water diving (the first day was in the swimming pool), I was about eight metres down the water when some water got into my mask and I couldn’t see where everyone else was. I also forgot about how to tilt my mask and got the water out of the mask.
Not only could I not see everything clearly, I also wasn’t used to breathing through my mouth under the water, I felt like I was suffocating. So my mind became increasingly panicked and did the stupidest thing ever in my life — I pulled out the regulator (the most important thing that helped me to survive under the water).
As soon as I pulled out the regulator I realised that I couldn’t breathe at all! My panic level escalated through the roof and I was drenched in fear, thinking that this might very well be the last day of my life. I was struggling so much under the water.
Luckily my divemaster saw me and quickly came over to me, trying to forcefully push the regulator back into my mouth. I forgot how much sea water I had swallowed that day. However, I was so horrified that I couldn’t think properly. I was even trying to kick him (thankfully I might have remembered to breathe through my mouth once or twice in those brief moments).
The divemaster performed an emergency ascent. Slowly my body stopped the struggle maybe because I was too exhausted, my mind became quiet, and all of a sudden the fear and fight left me, replaced by a feeling of calmness and tranquillity.
Then I saw a bright white light like a tunnel opening up and also images of loved ones. My mum came up first, I was bidding farewell to her (who was probably still sleeping at the hotel room and not knowing what happened), and saying sorry to her that I might have to leave her like that…
For some reason the entire experience seemed like a very peaceful experience (once I got pass the panic stage of my mind and left only with consciousness). Just as I thought I was already one foot into heaven, my head somehow miraculously came out of the water (the divemaster had performed an emergency ascent when I was only eight metres down), and finally I could breathe properly again.
I choked heavily for a while and felt like I was being pulled back from heaven to earth. It took me a while to get my mind and senses back. Everyone was asking me if I was ok, but I couldn’t reply and didn’t bother to reply, as I was still very much in awe of everything I had just experienced.
I stared intensely at my surroundings in amazement as if I had never seen them before, gazed intensely at the clear blue sky, the crystal clear water, the green mountains, the beautiful palm trees and every one’s faces filled with complicated emotions… I felt so incredibly alive, every cell of my body felt alive, basically I felt like I was reborn again. I also felt very much in love with life and the feeling of being alive, everything seemed so new and refreshing to me. There was an indescribable bliss of being immersed so deeply in those present moments.
The divemaster asked if I wanted to continue, I thought for a while and answered yes. After all, death was actually not that scary! And it was a silly mistake I could easily avoid. I’m glad I said yes and I had the most thrilling experience diving with sharks, swimming with over thirty reef sharks around me, below and above me. Honestly it was the most breathtaking and memorable experience in my life (Highly recommend it if you are the adventurous type).
From then on, I started to think more about death, so maybe death is in fact not that frightening but rather a peaceful and tranquil experience! Also not long after my father passed away, I had a vivid dream about him one night, he told me that he was fine, he was in a peaceful place. The dream was so real that it really didn’t seem like a dream at all.
That was when I started to ponder over existence, and maybe we were all souls and we were so much more beyond this mere physical and material existence. I also started to look into reincarnation. Of course, I have no doubt about all these now, having walked on the spiritual path for about two years and other things that have unfolded in my life.
At the heart to heart talk, another question we discussed was ‘what do you want to do before you die?’ Basically everyone started to write down a general bucket list, my top one was always travel the world and my second one was to publish a few books (I know there is a writer residing within me, it’s just a matter of time and energy to bring it out). Also another one about visiting space (if Elon Musk manages to take us to Mars and if I got the money, I would go!)
There are also many other things I would like to do before I die. A lady who came to the talk surprised herself by what she wrote down and agreed that it was so good to actually write everything down. Yes, as writing is refined thinking, and it helps us to bring clarity into our minds.
Also I believe whatever items we put down there, we are all seeking contentment and fulfilment, seeking our purposes in life. And we are all unique individuals and have different passions and interests, so just do whatever makes your soul sing J
The last question we discussed was ‘Is the life you are living now the life you want?’
A participant asked me why I associate this question with the topic Death. The question here is really to get everyone to reflect on life in this present moment. If you delve deeper upon the topic, then you would realise that the present moment is really all that we have.
‘The past is already gone, the future is not yet here.
There’s only one moment for you to live,
and that is the present moment’
Our entire life is made up by all the present moments. If we are unable to find contentment in this present moment and feeling dead inside, then it is worth looking into why. We can of course keep ignoring the feeling of discontent, but one day it will resurface again and again, and that is why people get depression and anxiety, feeling like walking dead, because they don’t want to face their feelings early on and keep burying their souls (like what I was doing in my early twenties).
That’s why some people keep on living but not really living. I can’t resist but quoting Osho again on this one (I like to quote Osho a lot in my articles):
“Just living is not always living.
Look at your life, can you call it a blessing?
Can you call it a gift? A present of existence?
Would you like this life to be given to you again and again?”
May our existence flower with creative life force, may we all call it a blessing, a gift, and may we all wish that this life to be given to us again and again.
Originally published at angelique.yoga.
Originally published at medium.com