"Don't just do something, sit there." Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein
There’s a wonderfully popular book about clearing your home of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. There are books on how to get started organizing your closet, kitchen, garage and relationship. What we don’t generally seek out is how to get started organiz- ing the part of life we don’t like to talk about - death. It’s a big word, even in small type, made bigger by the fact we have essentially no relationship with our mortality. We ig- nore the whole thing until something happens and then we panic, make snap decisions and spend too much time on regret. Fortunately death is coming out of the closet and our relationship to all of life is having a healthy change. We think, staring into the abyss of the storage shed, there is just no way to tackle the chaos and yet, once done, there’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and peace of mind. The same is true for the inner and outer work of death. There’s paperwork that needs attending, and then, often, the paperwork triggers emotions that need attending. It can feel overwhelm- ing and tempt us to just pull the door shut for another time - but like the shed, once the work is done, the results really do feel better. The rewards are great - more presence and a richer life right now, a better organization for the future and a gift to those we love - if we’ve taken care of it, they don’t have to. So where to start? The good news - it doesn’t matter. For some, just reading this far is a great first step, for others, the practi- cal is a good entry point. For many, taking a breath and just sitting there is perfect. Do- ing nothing is counter to our culture, especially when something is happening. Some- thing is happening therefore I must do something. What we often overlook, because we are very busy doing is how much there is to gain from being - and even more, from bal- ance. Step 1 - Just sit there. Just sit there and try on the idea that you are mortal. That may be plenty for right now. Step 2 - Be with whatever thoughts and feelings come up when you sit there with the idea, I’m mortal. Was it, “Oh my gosh I have so much to get done.” or “This whole idea terrifies me.” Perfect. Awareness is the first step, then Accep- tance - “Ok, I’m scared” or “Ok, I have a lot I need to attend to.” Finally, Step 3 - Action. What action do I want to take? That might be to do nothing and just keep sitting there. The action might be finish my living will or look up the Five Wishes. Whatever you do, you are not alone. All of us are facing the same trajectory. The only difference is the ex- perience we have right here and right now - another messy closet we think will just be too much to deal with, or a satisfying, peace of mind making sense of accomplishment? Neither way stops death, but dealing with reality long before the end makes life and end of life, much better for ourselves and the people we love.