There's a practice called "Death Meditation" in Tibetan monasteries. The idea you get in your mind when you hear that phrase is probably lying down on a cold piece of sidewalk somewhere and trying to imagine a lot of tubes up your nose, relatives crying at your side, and heart monitors going off with a beeping sound. But this is not the point at all. To put it simply, you just wake up in the morning and stay there in bed, lying down, without opening your eyes. And you say to yourself: "I'm going to die tonight. What would be the best thing to do with the rest of my time?" - Geshe Michael Roach, The Diamond Cutter
Which is eerily similar to this quote I referenced the other day from Steve Jobs:
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. - Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford commencement speech
I suppose you might get the urge to to try skydiving that day, or maybe go sing in a karaoke bar, or get the most expensive tickets to a Broadway play (assuming there's a matinee). The Death Meditation practice has to be done on a regular basis, over an extended period of time - and that's when it has its strongest effect. One result you'll find comes pretty quickly is that you streamline your life: You cut out the things that you own or do that slow you down...
If you were really going to die tonight, would you sit and read through the whole Sunday paper, or most of the magazines you subscribe to? Would you really surf around the TV looking desperately for anything of even minor interest? Would you still go out and spend an hour or two at lunch or dinner, gossiping about the other managers. Decide then: If not on the day I die, then not now either. Because, frankly, it may really be today. - Geshe Michael Roach, The Diamond Cutter
I read these words last night.
I did the Death Meditation this morning. I did not have an intense desire to beam myself to the Parthenon in Greece (I'm an ancient civilization junkie) or bask in the glow of the Taj Mahal at dawn. I'd no desire to bungie-jump into a canyon, or race a car at top speed across the glistening salt flats. You'll say this is only because I've already done many exotic or biochemical fueled adventures. Yes. Run Boston Marathon, check. Run fifty-milers weaving through mountain ridges, below glaciers, facing oceans and fjords, check. Run intense white water, check. Run off to Prague, Hong Kong, Venice, Bangkok, Oaxaca, Tokyo, Auckland, check. Run through matchbox villages, hidden serene canyons, fern chocked valleys, check. Yes - and no. With all I've done there was still...well, more I wanted.
Or was it less?
There was a practical part of me well aware that I have to wrap up my presentation for the BlogBusinessSummit by tomorrow. Can I make the presentation memorable so that if it was the last thing I did it would be worthwhile? So many folks whip together a few bullet points with little feeling for what they are leaving behind. And then there are presentations that seep into you like Julie Leung's on the social masks we wear (you had to be there because the visuals and Julie's presence are inextricable; but here's the audio).
There's a few things I won't get to by tonight. Beginning the book that won't go away or this new blog I'm working on launching. That's ok. But could write a poem. Better yet revise that poem I'm working on. Get the class blog up and share the poem (for my fellow Taos Summer Writers Conference's The Yoga of Writing students). Today.
And if this was the last post I wrote would it be reflective of what I am for? I think of this not only because of this Death Meditation, but I was reminded of it reading Steven Vincent's last post last week (more context: my RIP post). Yes, at any time this could be my last post. That's not meant to stop me dead in my tracks. Unperfect is what blogging is all about (as Tom Guarriello and I joked at a Starbucks in Manhattan when I meant to say imperfect!). There are days where I rant and days I whine. So I wondered: What was my very last post before the tsunami? Yes, thankfully, it's precisely what I'd have left behind. It's titled: A Story of Peace and Goodwill.
I read about the concept of survivor's guilt the other day (why am I alive when all these others perished?). Strange, I don't feel guilty about surviving the tsunami. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and those we lost. I do feel like I have a responsibility to really live and to give and to share.
But the honest truth is I don't feel the quite the same urgency as I did in, say, January without constant reminders.
This morning as I laid there I thought of calling up a few family members and friends and catching up with personal email (including to some of you out there). I called up a friend to go on a hike this afternoon. It's not about the hike, though.
I won't get to it all today, but I get a chance to die again. I hope.
p.s. Just finished The Diamond Cutter (and am still too spellbound to do a proper review). It's hands down the best business book I've read this year - maybe ever. If it matters at all Roach was founder of Andid International Diamond Corporation which has sales in excess of one hundred million dollars a year. He started out as an errand boy (ok, not your typical errand boy - he'd been Princeton-trained and is an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk).
p.p.s. I'm checking out 43 Things, a social tagging for life goals. My list is not that long anymore. Way too easy to get carried away with 43 things and neglect to live right now. Of the existing tags, these catch my eye: be kind, write a book, be a better listener, be a better friend, make love in the rain (gee, I can't find again), teach, let go of the past and forgive wholeheartedly, make a documentary film, achieve enlightenment.