February 28, 2024

To Live is to Die as to Die is to Live.


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Watching my mom transition from life to death made me question if how we live our life affects how we die.

I knew that I did not want to die like she did, in battle with herself.

At first, I found Pema Chödrön’s book How We Live is How We Die. This led me to a course about The Tibetan Book of The Dead with Andrew Holeck, and then the text explained by Francesca Fremantle in Luminous Emptiness.

Absolutely, how we live our life can ease our suffering when we die.

See, you just died a little bit; you cannot get back the moment you opened Elephant, clicked on this link, and started reading. That moment has passed, it’s gone, in the bardo.

The bardo is the space in between, the gap. The death of one state of mind gives the birth to another state of mind. That pause in between is the bardo. In death, there are many bardos. Your life right now is a bardo because you are only in this body for so long. And how many times in a day do your experiences create bardos?

We die constantly. Everything in our past is a death.

Physically, someone on this planet dies every time you snap your fingers. Snap your fingers; doesn’t that alone make you want to just live a little fuller life?

And we have choices before that snap passes and becomes a death. Happy. Sad. Content. Angry. Smiling. Scowling. Light. Heavy. Love. Hate.

My mom could hold a grudge. She held one until the day she died with her brother and another with her brother-in-law. She was angry with me for years. She did not go to church, but she would tell you she believed in God. She did not like it when my father did good deeds for other people; she said he should mind his own business. She did not meditate. As she aged, she became more nervous, anxious, and less content.

I can see my father going through the stages of death in his daily life. His physical body is dying slowly. He is 95, scared, and reactive, but he says he has lived a good life and is ready to die. He believes in God and goes to Catholic Church every Sunday. In his mind that is enough to keep him out of hell even though he has broken more than one commandment in recent months.

I think how my mom lived her life came up when she was dying. She did not understand how to process what she was experiencing. These feelings manifested as frustration, fighting, biting, screaming, and rebellion. She did not believe in karma and thought my belief in dharma was hogwash. Her struggle was real and heartbreaking to witness.

Thankfully, on the last afternoon of her life, she was calm enough to allow me to lead her in meditation to the gates of heaven where she was smiling and reaching for her brother. She passed peacefully less than an hour later.

I had a lot of questions after she died. I had to do better for my loved ones if they were next to me as I was transitioning. In learning how to die, I have had to reevaluate my life and learn how to live differently.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with too much information, as we are humans, so I want to share with you three takeaways that you can easily practice every day, many times a day, before your ultimate death. These practices can bring more awareness to how you live your life. They may even make you a happier, healthier person.

There are only 1,440 minutes in a day; you have many experiences in those minutes. So why not “die” a little differently so that when you leave your body you are not as scared and have a healthy awareness of what may come?

Three practices you can do each day:

Seek Peace

In all situations. All the time.

What I learned is death is a review of your life. And it’s not just one and done; it gives you multiple opportunities to choose a different path.

We have senses that feed us data and we have to choose how to respond to that data. We have to slow down and breathe.

Notice if you have been in this situation before, and if you have, react differently. This is spiritual growth.

You are being tested in this body; grow and change. Just know, as soon as you learn from one experience, another will pop up, and you will learn another lesson. We are human after all.

Don’t react immediately to a situation, step out of it, breathe, and ponder. Then with more clarity make a conscious choice how to engage.

Be Fearless

Step into discomfort; navigate the difficult situations with ease. Life isn’t all about peace; it is about the darker emotions too. Learn how to observe, not react on impulse.

Lean into the uncomfortable emotions of sadness, anger, and heartbreak. Allow yourself to be broken. Heal softly with good food, sunshine, good friends, and self-care.

Learn to recognize your ego; call him out. Don’t let him overshadow your natural brilliance.

After death, the soft lights are there to trick you; you must learn to seek out the path to the bright, luminous lights.


Being kind is the golden rule. But if there is one thing we all do it is breathe. We must, or we die for the last time in this body. Learn how to sit and breathe; two minutes counts. We call it Shamatha.

Get to know yourself on this deeper level. It is never too late. Living fully is the art of meditation, every second of the day. No matter if you are walking, eating, or doing the dishes. Presence is the secret; meditation is the way.

Slow down; seek your intuitive natural nature so you can seek peace and be fearless without excessive ego and drama. The universe wants you to succeed; a whole new way of life awaits you.

And a word about death as I understand it. Our physical body dies; the elements leave our body. Our mental body gives us opportunities to choose our next life according to our karma and the life we lived, the lessons we learned. Not just one choice and done—many scenarios, some downright frightening.

We have to know how to choose, and that is why the life we live determines how we die.


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