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2- Life-Affirming Death Awareness

Facing death is most useful when we do so in a way that affirms life. Mere exposure to death can be harmful.

Merely feeling our anguish about death is not necessarily useful. On the contrary. Much of the evidence indicates the exposure to death usually causes people to unconsciously withdraw from life and/or act out their pain in ways destructive to themselves and others. Many people exposed to death, for example, tend to disinvest from their lives and feelings on the grounds of "what's the point? I'm going to die anyway." If we do not consciously dare to face death in a way that affirms and acts for life, we are likely to unconsciously react to death in a way that deadens the short life we do have.

The purpose of this website, therefore, is not simply to encourage us to face death, but to do so in a way that affirms life. The goal is to cultivate an ongoing life-affirming death awareness at any age that both feels our pain about death and sees it transformed into a humble, awe-filled and loving appreciation of life, and a commitment to act to preserve it.

Hundreds of thousands of people over the centuries have found their lives transformed to new levels of aliveness they never imagined possible by developing a life-affirming death awareness. These include many who have faced their own mortality voluntarily, as well as those who have been exposed to the serious illness or death of loved ones, themselves survived near-fatal accidents, illnesses or suicide attempts, people who have received terminal diagnoses, and survivors of combat or violent crime.

While simple exposure to death is usually harmful, there is thus massive evidence that people can use exposure to death in a way that affirms and transforms their lives. People who have done so report many gifts of a life-affirming death awareness, such as:

Increased Aliveness - a transformed aliveness, energy, vitality beyond what was previously imagined;

Greater Life-Purpose - a greater sense of direction, and discipline, towards meaningful life-goals;

More Feeling - increased ability to feel all feelings, painful as well as joyful;

Deeper Relationships - greater love, appreciation and respect for mates;

Greater Courage - increased daring to face both external and internal obstacles, and to not be bound by conventionality;

More Compassion - deeper feelings of love and empathy for others, including people of different nations, gender, class, ethnicity and religions;

Greater Appreciation Of Beauty - a more poignant appreciation for artistic and natural beauty;

Increased Passion - a greater commitment to, and passion for, life;

Wider Perspective - an increased focus on meaningful and important, rather than petty, aspects of life;

Greater Creativity And Originality - a greater ability for original, "out of the box" thinking and creation;

Greater Concern For Humanity And Future Generations - increased desire to leave behind a better society and healthier biosphere for future generations; and

Spiritual Openings - an increased desire for direct and authentic, non-verbal and non-conceptual, spiritual experience.

We shall later (Taking the Journey)  suggest ways to develop a life-affirming death awareness. It is obviously preferable to do so voluntarily, i.e. through contemplation and experimentation by ourselves. But if we find ourselves involuntarily exposed to death - a near-accident, the illness or loss of a loved one, an incident like 9/11 or other crimes -- it is wise to use the experience as a way to affirm and act for life.

It is only when we develop and cultivate a daily practice of life-affirming death awareness - and act upon it - that we can transform our lives into a sustained experience of true aliveness.