Four Profound Reminders

Let your body settle and gently bring your attention to your breath. Relax and let yourself be aware of the flow of thoughts, feelings, and sensations without getting involved with them. When you find yourself clinging to thoughts, return to the breath, without feeling pressure.

1. Having settled into your body, please remember how precious this human life is. During this life you have encountered so much that has been helpful, including good teachers, the possibility of having a spiritual life, and teachings that inspire and guide you. Many people have helped you, and you have had the joy of helping others. Although you have suffered, you have also had many moments in your life that have been good. Please appreciate the preciousness of your life, what you might be able to realize through it, and how you may be able to help others as well.

2. Now contemplate the truth of impermanence. Look at your mind. Every thought and feeling that you have ever had has changed in one way or another. Your body, too, is constantly changing. One day it will die. Buddha, Christ, Muhammad — all the great teachers of the past have died. Everything in the phenomenal world will change, and one day, sooner or later, will cease to exist. Impermanence is real. Death is inevitable.

3. Now contemplate the truth of cause and effect. You yourself are a result of an endless chain of causes and effects involving your parents and ancestors stretching back through time. Before your human ancestors, there were animal and plant ancestors. And before the ancestors of mammal and blue-green algae, there were the elements. This chain of cause and effect is endless. Your relations are endless, and your past actions are like a shadow that follows you everywhere. Your future is also being laid down at this very moment. Consider that kindness and compassion give rise to good effects, and aggression and greed give rise to suffering. Do what you can to decrease suffering for yourself and others. Realize that you can purify your life by doing good for others and by atoning for the suffering you have caused yourself and others. You can transform this suffering into wisdom. Realize the truth of consequences.

4. Finally, consider the truth of suffering — birth, old age, sickness, death, getting what you do not want, not getting what you do want, and losing that which you cherish. So often you have felt that this or that will make you happy, will finally bring you peace. You might have worked very hard for these things — a good relationship, a nice house, a satisfying job. Yet sooner or later you will lose all these things. They themselves can also cause you to suffer. Consider the truth of ill-being, and the great benefit of being free of suffering. Contemplate what it would be to live a life without fear. Know that deathless enlightenment is here at this very moment. Can you relax your grip on what you think is real and open your life to whatever arises? Can you see through the illusion of past, present, and future? Can you let go of the reference points of solidity, identity, and separateness? Can you relax and open to things as they are? Can you plunge into life at this very moment and accept and learn from all of it? Let confidence arise in the truth of the present moment. Be there for it.

Relax as you experience this focused awareness, sense of inquiry, and presence, and remember who you really are, and why you are here.

Joan Halifax in Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death