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The Art and Science of Mindful Living

Great Unmentionable

Death is certain — the hour is uncertain.

The Great Unmentionable

Maurice O’Connell Walshe writes on the site Access to Insight: “It is sometimes said that Death today has replaced sex as “The Great Unmentionable” and certainly it is, for most people, an uncomfortable subject which they do not care to think about overmuch. Yet if there is one thing that is certain in life it is that we shall all die, sooner or later…….. So we all have to face death, whether we like it or not. …Let us, then, at least for a while, stop trying to forget it and look death straight in the face……Fear of death is an unwholesome state of mind….

In a one month period, I read an article about aging and death, one about dying with dignity, one about discussing end of life issues in a format called “Dinner and Death”, and one about talking to adolescents with terminal diseases about their final wishes. All the articles reinforced the fact that death is a part of life, just as birth is. The only difference is that we “don’t like to think about death”.

The operative words here are “I don’t like”, not “think about death”.  The second Noble Truth that wanting is what causes suffering is evident when we bring up this subject. We don’t want sadness and grief, so we ignore the idea of death, or worse, pretend it does not exist as if there is no possibility that we will not die!

But if we bring death into our awareness, it allows us to learn how to live with presence and joy. It need not overwhelm us, by understanding that everything changes and impermanence is ever present allows us to see things as a process, as not static. And that all things are conditioned and they have a lifespan…

If we can let go of the idea that we will not get sick, age or die, we can start to let go of all the other things we cling to. And in doing so, we can let go when it is most important. When we die.

Mors certa — hora incerta
“Death is certain — the hour is uncertain.”