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How do we come to terms with illness and death?

KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer
edited January 1 in Meditation

Hello everyone,

I think a lot about death, or about suffering from ill health and the worried that is tied into that. I am trying to come to terms with it though, does anyone have any advice on how to do that :)? Thank you! Happy New Year! And best wishes to all :)!

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 1

    First of all, know that suffering from ill-health, and Death, are two separate and completely different things. One doesn't necessarily follow the other.
    Ask anyone who's died in a car-crash in perfect health. Did they suspect, as they left their home for their customary, every-day journey to work, that this would be their final drive?

    Death does not come as we expect.
    And what is happening is that we are dying a little every day.
    Every breath is one breath less.
    Every moment you exist is one moment less you have to your life-span.
    You're in the dying process, right now.
    And that will end.... when? Do you know? Have you got it written somewhere?

    See, considering ill-health as an aspect or precursor to dying is understandable, but it's a mistake.

    So the question should be split into two:

    • How to handle illness and poor health.
    • How to handle the prospect of dying.

    So, what do you think, now....?

    Kaydeekaywojciechlobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    We can only deal with what is in front of us. Our thoughts and anticipations about things are almost always worse than when we are confronted with them though. Somehow, we find the strength to deal with illness, even horrible, long-term, life-threatening ones. @dhammachick is a wonder for all she deals with. Perhaps she has some advice :)

    I've found facing those fears is the best thing to do. When the thoughts about "what if I get cancer? Or in a bad accident? How in the world would we ever be able to handle that?" or the same types of thoughts about death, my own or other people. I sit with those thoughts and process through them. I find "death meditation" to be quite helpful, actually, because you are forced to face the reality of aging and death. Death can be a beautiful thing, and a time to spend with a loved one that is like no other. It is easy to want to run away, but I highly recommend taking the opportunity to be with them as they pass, if possible. Your understanding will deepen greatly, and it helps (In my experience and opinion) with the processing when your loved one has gone on.

    I also found The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to be an excellent resource for the whole process. Some of it gets into Tibetan bardos, but you don't even need to read those parts to get a lot of use out of the book. When my grandma was dying, I used to bring the book and read prayers to her out of the book. Thich Nhat Hanh also has some lovely words and advice about the topic of death.

    Facing it head on with understanding and compassion (including for yourself and your fears) is better than dancing around it with questions and fear.

    Kaydeekay
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yay to the advice about The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying. Brilliant, brilliant book.
    Well, I thought so.....

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer

    @federica said:
    First of all, know that suffering from ill-health, and Death, are two separate and completely different things. One doesn't necessarily follow the other.
    Ask anyone who's died in a car-crash in perfect health. Did they suspect, as they left their home for their customary, every-day journey to work, that this would be their final drive?

    Death does not come as we expect.
    And what is happening is that we are dying a little every day.
    Every breath is one breath less.
    Every moment you exist is one moment less you have to your life-span.
    You're in the dying process, right now.
    And that will end.... when? Do you know? Have you got it written somewhere?

    See, considering ill-health as an aspect or precursor to dying is understandable, but it's a mistake.

    So the question should be split into two:

    • How to handle illness and poor health.
    • How to handle the prospect of dying.

    So, what do you think, now....?

    Thanks for your insightful reply! I changed it because I feel like i am more scared of dying from ill health, than of death itself...hence, why it merged together. I wonder if that's because then I will be less likely to be in denial about it.

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer

    @karasti said:
    We can only deal with what is in front of us. Our thoughts and anticipations about things are almost always worse than when we are confronted with them though. Somehow, we find the strength to deal with illness, even horrible, long-term, life-threatening ones. @dhammachick is a wonder for all she deals with. Perhaps she has some advice :)

    I've found facing those fears is the best thing to do. When the thoughts about "what if I get cancer? Or in a bad accident? How in the world would we ever be able to handle that?" or the same types of thoughts about death, my own or other people. I sit with those thoughts and process through them. I find "death meditation" to be quite helpful, actually, because you are forced to face the reality of aging and death. Death can be a beautiful thing, and a time to spend with a loved one that is like no other. It is easy to want to run away, but I highly recommend taking the opportunity to be with them as they pass, if possible. Your understanding will deepen greatly, and it helps (In my experience and opinion) with the processing when your loved one has gone on.

    I also found The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to be an excellent resource for the whole process. Some of it gets into Tibetan bardos, but you don't even need to read those parts to get a lot of use out of the book. When my grandma was dying, I used to bring the book and read prayers to her out of the book. Thich Nhat Hanh also has some lovely words and advice about the topic of death.

    Facing it head on with understanding and compassion (including for yourself and your fears) is better than dancing around it with questions and fear.

    Thank you, I am considering how to come to terms with it and I think this is sound advice :). I have read that book, will dig it out again :). Thank you!

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Well, you know what they say, the only inevitable things in life are death and taxes... so if it is inevitable, why worry about it? Some day it will come, your life will end, and according to Buddhism consciousness will carry on, like a match lighting a second match the moment it flames out. Death should just be acknowledged as a moment of supreme transformation, and welcomed.

    Ill-health too is very likely later in life, if you've never suffered a serious illness then you may not have a conception of how limiting it can be. But at the same time there are always things to be grateful for. A breath of wind on your face, a walk on the beach, the touch of a loved one. There are always blessings as well during a day.

    So on the whole I would say, live every moment by mindfully paying attention to the joys, and not letting the suffering wear on you. And try to be ready to face death with grace, whenever it chooses to come.

    Kaydeekaylobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I commend you for your skilful mindfulness.
    Having been in a situation where I sat with my father as he died, I tried to focus neither on Positivity nor Negativity, but merely took the situation as it was, as it was. You cannot strictly speaking think about the future, because Now is all you have.

    Please don't be angry with me or think me insensitive. I really can comprehend how much of a whirlwind your mind and heart must be in, right now. Truly, I feel for you, and can only stand on the sideline and offer you the honest Compassion I feel.
    But it's how I got through, and more importantly, it's how I found the strength to help my Mother, through.

    You're there, right now. And that's all you can EVER do.

    Much, much Metta to you.

    herbertolobsterKannon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    How do we come to terms with illness and death?

    @Kaydeekay

    Memento mori "Be mindful of death"

    And "this" also will provide more insight ....

    Plus this will help put things into perspective
    "What would it be like to go to sleep and never wake up ?"

    Metta

    herbertoKaydeekay
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer

    @herberto said:
    I'm reading this as I sit next to my wife at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Tuesday she was experiencing excruciating back pain. By Wednesday she had lost the feeling in and use of her legs. She under went a successful operation to relieve the pressure on he spinal cord, so here we sit as she recovers in ICU. She's slowly regaining the feeling in her legs. Will she walk again? We're hopeful. There are plenty of things to worry about. So how does an aspiring Buddha handle all of this? I'm trying to remain positive and not think too much about the future. I remind myself that worrying accomplishes nothing. I'm here for her right now, right here. I'm doing all that I can do.

    So sorry <3

    herberto
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    How do we come to terms with illness and death?

    With Love, Joy and Equanimity!

    Think that is easy? Takes practice.

    Practice health enhancement and prepare for death.
    http://www.artofliving.org/meditation/meditation-for-you/benefits-of-meditation

    Do yoga, Tai Chi, or Buddhist Martial Arts to enhance well being ...

    Iz plan!

    JaySon
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Kaydeekay said:
    Hello everyone,

    I think a lot about death, or about suffering from ill health and the worried that is tied into that. I am trying to come to terms with it though, does anyone have any advice on how to do that :)? Thank you! Happy New Year! And best wishes to all :)!

    There are a lot of ways, but it really depends on the person. You may find some techniques more helpful than others. In Buddhism, study and meditation of impermanence and the not-self nature of the aggregates are two of the most popular. Developing equanimity is another one.

    JaySon
  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

    Some say going into jhana is like practicing for death because you learn to let go of attachment to your body in order to go into jhana.

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    Thanks @karasti for your kind words :heart:

    I'm by no means an expert, but what you have to break it down to is that it often when we focus on a thought, it becomes a loop. Once it takes a hold it's easy to get caught up in it.

    When I was first diagnosed with my illness, it consumed me. I was also told, incorrectly, it was terminal. For weeks I was obsessed with how I would die, how it would feel, how my family would feel and I just couldn't focus on anything else. So much so that I took almost a week off work and just ruminated on it in my room. Really unhealthy stuff. After nights of no sleep, in desperation I did some mantra meditation and feel asleep during it. When I woke up, I realised that I couldn't live in an unknowable future, I had to live in the NOW. We don't know when we will die, so we could spend decades living in fear and being frozen in time.

    Once I had that realisation, I found out while I am not terminal, it is degenerative and I will be wheelchair bound soon-ish (I say bollocks to that though). I also have two small aneurisms on my brain, so I could die anytime if one bursts. Kind of puts things in perspective.

    I don't have a specific formula as such to live by. I just do, because what else can I do? I DO try to live by the Eightfold Noble Path and be mindful of things.

    Does any of that make any sense?

    _ /\ _

    lobsterKaydeekay
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Kaydeekay said:
    Hello everyone,

    I think a lot about death, or about suffering from ill health and the worried that is tied into that. I am trying to come to terms with it though, does anyone have any advice on how to do that :)? Thank you! Happy New Year! And best wishes to all :)!

    These are difficult questions to contemplate, but it is worth the effort.
    This sutta is worth a read: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.057.than.html

    Obviously there is a difference between measured contemplation of the inevitability of ill health and death, and generalised anxiety about them.

    Kaydeekay
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Does watching zombie movies count? o:)

    herberto
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer
    edited January 3

    Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts! I will look into everything that you have suggested :)! <3

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    AN 4.184
    Abhaya Sutta: Fearless

    [The Blessed One said:] "Brahman, there are those who, subject to death, are afraid & in terror of death. And there are those who, subject to death, are not afraid or in terror of death.

    "And who is the person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death?

    "There is the case of the person who has abandoned passion, desire, fondness, thirst, fever, and craving for sensuality. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought does not occur to him, 'O, those beloved sensual pleasures will be taken from me, and I will be taken from them!' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

    "Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has abandoned passion, desire, fondness, thirst, fever, and craving for the body. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought does not occur to him, 'O, my beloved body will be taken from me, and I will be taken from my body!' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

    "Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has done what is good, has done what is skillful, has given protection to those in fear, and has not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'I have done what is good, have done what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and I have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. To the extent that there is a destination for those who have done what is good, what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel, that's where I'm headed after death.' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

    "Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has no doubt or perplexity, who has arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'I have no doubt or perplexity. I have arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma.' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

    "These, brahman, are four people who, subject to death, are not afraid or in terror of death."

  • "Behold, O monks, this is my advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."
    an interpretation of Buddha's last words before entering paranibbana

    lobster
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