Saturday, June 15, 2013

To Live a Life Well Lived, Without Later Regret

I read a review of a book today (and linked at the end of this blog post), in which it was suggested that, as a spiritual practice, we make a habit of occasionally contemplating our own mortality.   Interesting thought.  Why might that be a good idea?  After reading more, I became convinced of the value of the practice, and I will share my thoughts about that now.

True, the thought of death is not pleasant,.  However, it is a fact that each one of us knows in advance that we have only a limited allotment of days.  Reminding ourselves occasionally of this fact may help us focus on what we have in the here and now, and on our present opportunity while it still exists.

I hope not to reach the end of my life only to look back upon my past with regret.  How about you?  When you get to the end of your life, what do you want the finished picture of your life to look like? What, in hindsight, will you wish you had focused on? What parts of your personal life painting will you wish you had painted differently? In light of your deepest goals and values, is there a need to refocus or redirect present, daily energies to what is most important to you?

This general thought, about how to live a life that we will look back upon with happiness, also brings to mind an article I read several moths ago in the publication, The Guardian, entitled: "Top Five Regrets of the Dying."  The article summarizes a book of the same name which is based on interviews collected by palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware.  (It can be purchased from the Amazon link below:)

Some of the regrets expressed by people faced with their own mortality, as collected by Ware, are:

1.  I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Ware writes: "This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

Ware writes:  "All of the men ... deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Ware writes: "Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Ware writes:  "Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. ... There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Ware writes:  "Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. ... Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."


Are there any changes you need to make so that, 
when you look back at the story of your life, you will say,   
"It was good" 

I close this blog post with a quote from the book for which I read the review, 
Spiritual Gems of Islam: Insights & Practices from the Qur'an, Hadith, Rumi ; Muslim Teaching Stories to Enlighten the Heart &Mind:

"From time to time, 
as an integral part of your spiritual practice, 
meditate on your death. 
Aware of the mystery of death, 
meditate on the Prophet's [Muhammed's] words, 
It is better to blush in this world than in the next.' 
Ask yourself what you might do to 
purify your heart more deeply, 
say what needs to be said to others, and 
perform more righteous deeds. 
Do all of this not with a sense of fear 
but out of a soul-felt desire to become free and fulfilled. 
The Prophet has sage advice for all of us: 
'When you were born, 
everyone was smiling but you were crying. 
Live such a life that when you depart, 
everyone is weeping but you are smiling.' " 

Nuages La Malbaie
Clouds at Sunset by Letartian, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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