I have been thinking a lot about the quality of life and death. My Buddhist teacher, Bhante Sathi, asked me one simple question that will not get out of my head. He asked me, “Are you satisfied with your life?” And I replied, “Yes.” When I look at my life, I am satisfied with everything that I did. I have a few things that I would do differently, but, all in all, I am satisfied.
An unlived life causes the fear of death. If you are happy with your life, then you can let go. But if you feel that you did not live your life, then fear can appear. Are YOU satisfied with your life?
Almost every day, I sit with the dying. I see my patients mortality and my mortality and the brief span of time that we call life. The Buddhists believe, just like in nature, there are two events: birth and death. I, too, believe that we are part of a cycle of birth and death (reincarnation). I do not fear death. However, I am curious.
Do you sleep at night? Sleep is the twin of death (Yalom, 2008). We experience a taste of death every night. Death is part of us, part of nature. And every morning is a symbol of rebirth. All things begin and end and then start again.
Most of my hospice patients decline until they are in a sleep-like coma. Also, they hold their breath. Some hospice practitioner’s call this, “Fish out of the water.” They retain their breath like a fish out of water, opening and closing its mouth. After they hold their breath, then they need to catch their breath. So it’s a cycle of retention (holding the breath) and fast breathing.
When I watch my patients breathe, I understand the importance of learning pranayama (regulation of the breath through specific techniques and exercises). Pranayama exercises help us to prepare for death. As a yoga practitioner, I understand the value of training the prana (breath/life-giving force). According to B. K. S. Iyengar (yoga master), it is best to practice pranayama with an experienced Guru or a skilled teacher.
Meditation also helps us prepare for death. Again, we watch the breath. In life, the breath is always with us.
When you are satisfied with your life, there is no fear of death. You lived your life to the fullest! No regrets. The essence of who you are stays with you. You go to sleep as you, and you wake up as you. It is through wisdom that we see the truth.
Yalom, I. D. (2008). Staring at the sun: Overcoming the dread of death. London, Great Britain: Piatkus.