I’ve just finished reading a book on appreciating life, written by a man facing death.
Death is scary. It means change, loss, finality, the unknown.
But the main point the author makes is that until you face and accept your own mortality, you can never fully live.
Life is an adventure; death is unknown
(Enjoy every sandwich, living each day as if it were your last – by Lee Lipsenthal)
Lee says that he got to a point in his life that any day would be a good day to die. He was happy, fulfilled and peaceful, despite having terminal cancer. He clearly embraced life and got past the fear of death.
Three things I take away from his story:
- Gratitude is the ultimate expression of hope
When we start to recognise and appreciate things – even the little things in a life that doesn’t seem to be going to plan – we begin to look for more good things and think more positively, according to Lee. His advice? Every night write down 3 things that you are grateful for that happened that day – from a good meal to a great joke, or simply a smile from a stranger. After a few weeks you’ll find yourself actively looking for things during the day to write down later. I’m going to start doing this.
- Not everyone values science over spirituality
Lee was both scientific – he studied medicine and worked as a doctor, and spiritual – he practiced meditation and was a great believer in things greater than those we understand. I feel that too often people refuse to believe that science and spiritually can exist in harmony. For me, science is the how, spiritually is the why. Science can never explain why, just as spiritually can’t explain how. It’s refreshing to hear from someone scientifically knowledgeable, yet open to so much more than the narrow scientific view of life.
- The ‘one-self’ – the world is a bigger place
The chapter that refers to this immediately reminded me of a post by Raimy over at Creative Guru: If I’m not who I think I am then who the hell am I? Lee talks about how the body can’t define the self due to its constant changing, and due to the fact that we are more than our component parts. He describes an exercise where you repeat the following to yourself:
I have a body, but I am not my body
I have feelings, but I am not my feelings
I have desires, but I am not my desires
I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts
I am the self, the centre of consciousness
I really struggle with this concept, but it fascinates me.
The desire to change has to be greater than the fear of change to move forward. It’s pretty inspiring to read about someone who overcame what could be described as the greatest fear: the fear of death, the unknown.
It can be really difficult to see the bigger picture, to remember that feelings, desires and thoughts are fleeting, and to focus on the ‘one-self’, the bigger picture, but getting past fear opens up so many possibilities.