Dr. Amit K. Sood, is Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN. and Director of research and practice at Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. An expert on mind and body, Dr. Sood offers insights into human stress, well-being, resiliency, and happiness.
Fear of death is amongst the top fears in our society. I too have this fear. It has become worse after I became a parent, knowing that two precious souls totally depend on me for their wellbeing.
Every life form runs away from the possibility of death. This is particularly worse in humans because of our ability to project into the future and our awareness of our individual separateness. The moment we become conscious of our individual separateness, we become aware of our individual finiteness. Collectively we have developed different approaches to deal with this fear, including denial, suppression or finding meaning, often through religion. These are all good and helpful. However, since death is inevitable, I believe a more adaptive fear than the fear of death might be the fear of dying too soon.
What is dying too soon? Is it before I have raised the kids, seen the world, or enjoyed to my satisfaction? Each of these has no defined end point. The more I immerse in sensory pleasures, the hungrier I get for further pleasures. Once our kids are all grown up, I will crave to play with the grandkids. This is the self-perpetuating itch-scratch-itch cycle. It won’t fatigue on its own. I have to think of a better alternative.
I believe I came to this world to develop a compassionate heart. If I leave the world before fulfilling that mission, I will have died too soon. So to me premature demise is passing away before my heart is filled with compassion. With this goal, I know exactly what to do for the rest of my life – remove all barriers toward the practice of compassion.
Fear not that you’ll die; fear that you’ll die before your heart is filled with compassion.
Reprinted with compliments of Dr. Amit K. Sood.
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