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Daily Connect: Truly Want to be Happy? Remember You're Gonna Die

The BBC website has a recent article "Bhutan's Dark Secret to Happiness".  What's the "dark secret"?   Death.

It seems that Bhutanese people are encouraged to think about death five times each day, as a way to remind themselves of the impermanent nature of life and to have gratitude for what they have right now.  The writer of the article, a westerner experiencing anxiety and panic attacks, is told by a Bhutanese man that his problems will be alleviated if he contemplates that he will die:

“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. . . 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.”

Photo by Christopher Michel (CC license)

Bhutan is a Buddhist country, and, as in most Buddhist traditions, it is taught that wisdom and compassion arise through realizing the transience of our being, the truth of our suffering, and the ever-changing nature of self.  My Tibetan teacher urges his students to contemplate the moment of their death, as a way to both relate to the fear that arises when we think about our demise, and appreciate our precious life.

Appreciation gladdens the mind, so the paradoxical result of contemplating your doom often results in greater contentment and happiness.  Hence the "dark secret" of the Bhutanese. 

You can also check out the 2007 study by University of Kentucky, which found that people who contemplated their own death regularly were more likely to create positive words.


Or you can ponder the music of the great William Shatner:  "Live life like you're gonna die, because you're gonna!"

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