A couple years back I lost a dear friend of mine. He was 38 years old. I had seen him just the week before at the local pub and we had spoken of the next time we would get together. We’d made tentative plans to convene after I returned from a two week trip that I had scheduled to India. I checked my voicemail upon arriving back in the USA 16 days later; there was a message from his girlfriend… Bob was dead. He was healthy and active, in the middle of building a home for himself on some beautiful mountain land. He passed in his sleep.
It is delusional to assume that we will be alive tomorrow. The reality of life is, first of all, that it’s short; secondly, death will surely find us all. In order to get the most out of each day we must live in each moment, our eyes and heart firmly fixed on the beauty and life that is here, right now, and that is inviting each of us to participate by being present and grateful. When we are living in the present the world and our existence is not only a more beautiful place but we experience a greater openness to adventure and to following the desires of our heart. If we aren’t always looking toward tomorrow then tomorrow’s fears have no hold on us; worry is rarely a side-effect of living consciously.
It would be great if each of us would allow some time each morning to meditate quietly on the reality that today may quite possibly be the last day we get to spend on the earth. How could such a perspective change our hearts and lives? How do you treat your spouse or your children if the words you are speaking to them may be your last? How do you allocate your time if you have 13 breathing hours left? Many will rightly argue that we can’t live our whole lives worried that we might die… I am suggesting quite the opposite. That we might be concerned with living each day with as much joy, kindness and hope that we can muster! Remembering death, reflecting on her imminence, instead of causing us consternation, can be exactly the motivation we need in order to seize each day and cause gratitude to spring up within us for the Life we are all partakers of!
“Memento Mortis” was a sort of mantra practiced by a group of monks in Greece (as well as by others, I’m sure). It means, “The memory of death,” or “don’t forget you have to die.” The monks considered anyone who forgot this truth, who lived for tomorrow instead of today, to be a fool. This daily recollection causes us to have to deal with a very real question, “Am I living my life, today, in a way that is causing myself and others joy? Am I pleased with the direction things are heading?” If the answer is no, then it’s time for things to change. This doesn’t mean that you need to quit your job or run off. You don’t need a change of locations or relationships in order to live each day to its fullest (though you may very well need to do these things if you know they are a hindrance or are detrimental to your quality of life!). It’s about taking little steps.
Ask yourself what’s one thing you can adjust in your heart or life today that will move you toward greater peace, joy, and freedom. Then you simply need to be courageous enough to actually do it! By cultivating beautiful, joy-filled lives we are adding to the beauty of all humanity and creation. The little changes we make in order to be more present and loving have a ripple effect and tremendous impact on our own lives, environment, and everyone we meet. You may not be here tomorrow so don’t let this day pass without moving in the direction of joy and gratefulness. Be ready to make decisions today in the name of freedom. Tomorrow may never come so, honestly, what are you waiting for?