In a world where discussions about death are often hushed and avoided, the global pandemic has thrust mortality into the forefront of our minds. Yet, traditionally, we have been taught to shy away from contemplating our mortality, fearing that it might lead to anxiety and depression. Modern practices further shield us from death, confining it to hospitals and funeral homes.
However, psychological research suggests that surviving encounters with death or seriously contemplating it can have profound positive effects. Individuals who have faced accidents, serious illnesses, or other close calls to mortality often emerge with a newfound perspective on life. They begin to cherish the present, find joy in simple things, and develop a broader sense of perspective. The transformations extend to a decrease in materialism, an increase in altruism, and more intimate, authentic relationships.
Encounters with death can indeed serve as wake-up calls, shaking us out of indifference. We can cultivate similar benefits by simply contemplating death. Drawing on Buddhist traditions, the practice of meditating in cemeteries or reflecting on the impermanence of life is another option.
Embracing the reality of death, through discussions about it, akin to “death cafes,” can be beneficial. By acknowledging the inevitability of death, individuals may tap into its transformative power. Paradoxically, becoming aware of mortality can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling life, allowing us to appreciate the present fully. Embracing life, in all its impermanence, may be the key to unlocking profound joy and connection.