Throughout our history, multiple different cultures have meditated on the subject of death.

While many people these days believe that thinking and meditating about death is unnecessary and uncomfortable, in reality it can provide us with a unique perspective which helps us live more grateful, compassionate, happier and more fulfilled lives.


The best way of approaching death I have come across is the Stoic meditation of memento mori. In Latin this roughly translates to remember that you will die.

The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome saw death as a gate through which we all have to walk. It is unavoidable, and outside our control. Therefore, no amount of resistance or suffering will help us avoid it, it is to be accepted as part of our journey through life.

When we remind ourselves often that we will die, and those around us will die, it can shift how we think about the time we have. Rather than being upsetting and a thought to be avoided, knowing that we will die can make us more grateful and appreciative of the time we do have.

When we are with our friends, we enjoy the time more keenly because we know that one day we will be gone. When we are with loved ones we are more present because we know that these moments are limited. When we look out on the world we enjoy the experience of the sounds, the smells and the sights, because on some point in the future we wont be here to observe any of it.

For this reason, meditation on death helps us to remain present, grateful, connected and aware. At the same time it stops us getting involved with petty squabbles, arguments, and complaint. After all, we’re only here for a little while, why waste it on things that take away from your experience?


We’ve all heard of the Samurai. We all probably wanted to be one when we were kids. But how many times have you come across their philosophy?

The Samurai used death as a mental practice to enjoy life, conquer fear, and become better warriors.

“The Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one’s mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done”

A comparison can be made between human life and the Japanese cherry blossoms.

In Japan, the cherry blossom has become part of the culture. The pink-white blossoms can be followed through the country as is moves North with the change in temperature. A large part of what makes the blossoms so beautiful is that they only last for a week.

In a similar way, enjoyment of life becomes more profound because it is fleeting.


The Buddhists of Tibet have a practice called Lojong in which there are The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind. One of these Thoughts is the contemplation of death and our impermanence.

It consists of the following:

  • All things made from other things are impermanent.

  • The human body is a thing made from other things.

  • Therefore, the death of the body is certain.

  • The time of death is uncertain and beyond our control.

This idea was designed for daily contemplation, to prevent the natural human tendency to behave as though we have all the time in the world.

This central teaching of the Buddhist practice is called maranasati, or “death awareness”, and is thought to be a core part of living a better life.

You and I can gain a lot from using some of this Buddhist wisdom. It helps us become aware of how short our time really is, and in doing so helps us question whether or not we are making the most of the time we have.

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