A writer named Eric Weiner visited the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan, and was suddenly overcome by shortness of breath, dizziness and numbness in the hands and feet. Fearing a heart attack or worse, he visited a physician name Dr. Karma Ura, who told him he suffered a panic attack.
“You need to think about death for five minutes every day,” Ura replied. “It will cure you.”
“How?” I said, dumbfounded.
“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”
“But why would I want to think about something so depressing?”
“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”
He talked to experimental psychologists, and they confirmed that while thinking about unpleasant experiences can be depressing, thinking about death can be liberating.
Ura’s lesson … stuck with me. I make it a point to think about death once a day. Unless I find myself especially stressed, or engulfed in an unexplained funk. Then I think about it twice a day.
The same is true of me. I have never felt more alive than when I underwent surgery for prostate cancer, and when I underwent radiation treatment for the remaining cancer, and when I began injections for the still remaining cancer.
I was clearly aware at those times of something that I normally find it difficult to keep in mind—that although I could have died at any time, and sooner or later will die of something, I am alive right now, and life is good.
Here’s someone else who has thought about the subject.