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Several years ago I wrote an article called “How to Get the Most out of Living” which I have developed into a talk I give to various groups.
At a recent talk a woman who knows I have been in hospice work for many years said, “You should write an article about how to get the most out of dying.” So here are 10 ways to do so:
Live and let die – This doesn’t mean living without caring about other people. It just means just letting go and let death happen as it inevitably will. Look at death as a natural part of living.
Let go – When our minds are on the past or on the future, which is where they tend to go when we are trying to control outcomes, we often experience agitation or anxiety, sometimes both, but seldom peace. We cannot be an example of peace except in each present moment.
And we can’t know peace unless we experience God’s presence, which is always available, moment by moment. There is nothing more peaceful than having the privilege of being with those who die and witness them peacefully letting go.
Experience a miracle – The only thing standing in the way of our enjoying the peace we deserve is our resistance to choosing another thought when the one we are protecting is doing us and others harm. This simple act of shifting our perception can exponentially add to the peace of the world.
Act, don’t react – The happy life begins with taking charge of our actions. It means making the choice to act rather than react to the whims of others. Many of us become quite masterful at letting other people determine our feelings, either through their perceptions of us or their actions, or both. We allow other people’s actions toward us to engender in us a thoughtless reaction or self-conscious withdrawal.
Drop your judgments – These imprison us in the way they monopolize our feelings, our actions, our plans, our hopes and dreams. Every time we sit in judgment of another person, our lives are diminished; they become narrower. We need to ask ourselves why we continue to do something that has such a detrimental impact on our own lives. Being judgmental is a habit. It can be changed.
Accept your powerlessness – Abandoning our attempts to control other people and each situation is a profound form of personal liberation.
A reason we try to control is to avoid our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. If we cling to unpeaceful thoughts (an every attempt to control someone or some situation is an unpeaceful thought) we can never experience the peace we so deserve.
Be the center of your own attention – Our lives reflect our thoughts, and when our thoughts are consumed by our attention on others, we miss the many opportunities and lessons that are beckoning to us.
Codependency is a popular term for this obsession. Living through the lives of others (watching others’ every move to discover who we are and the depth of our acceptability) is a lonely place to live. It’s also a path that doesn’t allow us to participate in the events we had requested to experience in this life.
Our obsessions with other people’s lives prevent us from fulfilling our own purpose, which in turn creates in us a sense of insignificance, which then feeds our obsession, which is quite the vicious circle.
Do no harm – There are so many ways of doing harm. Some seem quite minor and call on our utmost vigilance. Not listening, not responding, not making eye contact, being discounting, responding with a growl, and perhaps the most common, criticism, might be slight but they are nonetheless harmful.
When anyone anywhere is diminished by our treatment, we have done harm. Verbal, physical and sexual abuse, the forms of harm we commonly think of, are in reality just a tiny percentage of the harm committed all around us all the time.
Even in our last moments, we have the choice to be kind, unflinchingly compassionate and loving.
The Dalai Lama said it so well, “Love one another. And if you can’t love one another, at least don’t hurt one another.”
Quiet your mind and hear God’s voice – Beneath the noisy voice of the ego lies the quiet voice of God. We can only hear this quiet voice by emptying or silencing our busy, chattering minds.
Harboring anger or fear or resentments give us the illusion of power and control, making our inclination to cling to them very strong.
It’s not until we have experienced the peace and freedom of releasing all mean-spirited thoughts that we have any idea how different our lives can feel.
Every encounter is a holy encounter – I have always found this idea very reassuring. It means I don’t have to be in constant turmoil about God’s will.
If I accept the premise that no one is on my path accidentally and that everyone is a child of God, I am more willing to accept their presence and the circumstances that have brought us together. I believe that our most important assignment is to look into the eyes of everyone we meet and recognize the holiness of their spirit within. This will make a more peaceful world. And while the world is being transformed, each one of us will experience a personal transformation. It really can’t get any better than that!
Bob Mueller is the assistant vice president of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. For information, visit www.bobmueller.org. The views in this column are those of the writer.