Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Death: the Key to the Door of Life

--by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (Nov 16, 2009)

There is no need to be afraid of death. It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a façade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are. Every individual human being born on this earth has the capacity to become a unique and special person unlike any who has ever existed before or will ever exist again. But to the extent that we become captives of culturally defined role expectations and behaviors – stereotypes, not ourselves, -- we block our capacity of self-actualization. We interfere with our becoming all that we can be.

Death is the key to the door of life. It is through accepting the finiteness of our individual existences that we are enabled to find the strength and courage to reject those extrinsic roles and expectations and to devote each day of our lives – however long they may be – to growing as fully as we are able. We must learn to draw on our inner resources, to define ourselves in terms of the feedback we receive from our own internal valuing system rather than trying to fit ourselves into some illfitting stereotyped role.

It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people living empty, purposeless lives; for when you live as if you’ll live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know that you must do. You live your life in preparation for tomorrow or in remembrance of yesterday, and meanwhile, each day is lost. In contrast, when you fully understand that each day you awaken could be the last you have, you take the time that day to grow, to become more of who you really are, to reach out to other human beings. […]

Use this growth not selfishly, but rather in service of what may be, in the future tide of time. Never allow a day to pass that did not add to what was understood before. Let each day be a stone in the path of growth. Do not rest until what was intended has been done. But remember – go as slowly as is necessary in order to sustain a steady pace; do not expend energy in waste. Finally, do not allow the illusory urgencies of the immediate to distract you from your vision of the eternal.

--Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, from "Death: The Final Stage of Growth"

Add Your Reflection:

Send me an email when another comment is posted on this passage.
Name: Email:

Previous Reflections:

On Nov 16, 2009 Naumadd wrote:

I've always rejected and will always reject the idea that life acquires its value or acquires more value because it comes to an end. This is like saying the sports car is valuable because it runs out of gas, breaks down, rusts and whithers away. No. The sports car is valuable for what it is and can do rather for the fact it will at some point lose that existence and abilities.

Sunsets are wonderful not because they end because they ARE sunsets and affect us in a particular way damned near every time we see one. We react to flowers because of what they ARE rather than the fact they whither. The apple is sweet because it IS sweet and delicious, NOT because it will sour and rot. The same is true of a human being and of anything that's living - we are valuable or acquire value because of what we ARE and what we can DO, or say or may do or say in the future. If our value or the value of life was derived from the fact of death, it would stand to reason we could increase our own value or the value of another simply by accelerating toward that moment of death. A healthy man would be nowhere near as valuable as the man bleeding profusely. The healthy woman nowhere near as valuable as she dying of cancer.

Focus on death as the root of value, in fact, decreases life's value rather than the reverse. Sure, knowing that death is or is almost a certainty establishes a timeline for planning and or deciding what can and cannot be fit into that period of time (roughly 100 years or less), but the timeline itself doesn't give life its value. It is the specific experiences of life, the explorations and discoveries, the knowledges and understandings and wisdoms acquired, the talents, the skills, the insights, the pleasures, the chances to create something that has never existed before - THESE are the values in life, these are the wonders, the awe, the miracles that make life such an incredible adventure EVEN if life has no end and, it is my belief, that longer life equates to MORE value than less. After all, additional time to live means additional experiences, additional opportunity to live what has no already been lived.

Naumaddic Pieces

On Nov 17, 2009 Danny wrote:

I have a dream want to live in the countryside in America and enjoy peaceful moments in rest of my lifetime.

Time past so fast and i do not know if i can realize my dream again.


On Nov 18, 2009 Patsy wrote:

This is wonderfully put. While there is certainly nothing wrong with planning and thinking of the future, the knowlege that there may not be one after today can be beneficial. The acceptance of the impermanance of our life removes fear; it removes the need to control; it can even lift depression.

You just don't know what will happen until it does. Really! Every day, every moment anything can happen. This should be a cause for openminded anticipation, not fear. When death is not feared, what is left to be afraid of? How freeing this is! How easy now to put every aggravation or disappointment into perspective, also each joy and success. Ah, yes, fear not!

On Nov 18, 2009 nuschke wrote:

re Naumadd's comments.

I think your ideas and the blurb from Kubler-Ross are not in actual opposition.

Another way to express the point is to say that we tend to carry an unconscious, general attitude of "eternalism" - i.e. we don't live as if life will end.   Because we don't have a sense of impermanance (which is an accurate, true sense/view), we do not fully experience our lives, see the sunset, taste the apple.  Rather, we experience through a cloud of conception, that worries about the past and future.

So fully tasting the apple or seeing the sunset is the same as experiencing life from the insight/view of impermanence.  Just two ways of saying the same thing.

So it is not a "focus on death" but a relinquishment of the cacoon of eternalism that I think is the point.


On Nov 20, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

This Wednesday was rather special - a smaller group with deeper reflections. A different vibe was in the air.

The passage sparked several thoughts. A teacher once said, "Real death is when you forget yourself." 
Medical science has now shown that my body right now has no cell in it that existed prior to seven years. There is constant birth and death within my own body, and this will continue even after "death" happens to my body. If I am cremated and the ashes immersed in a river, the fishes will be served by them. And if I am buried, then the worms will be nourished. Either way, my cells will help in the procreation of other species and this incessant cycle of life and death will continue. And yet, I live with no awareness of this tremendous phenomenon.
A wise king was once asked what the most wonderful thing on this planet was. He replied, "People are dying everyday, and yet they think that they will never die." Some call this confusion Maya. This confusion wreaks havoc in our lives. We extend the confusion of our own mortality to others, by forgetting that they are mortal too. If everyone is here a short time, why expend hatred or anger? Why waste time with grudges? Why not just love? 
The confusion also extends to my creations. When I am mortal, and so are the things I use to create, then how can I expect my creations to be immortal? And yet, "sustainability" is an important idea in our society, which gets taken to obscene levels with the notion of "too big to fail." We act with great fear of death and cannot imagine what will happen if the world around us changes. Well, the world will change inspite of our best efforts.
How do I stay out of this confusion? One method I've found useful to imagine what it would be like if I were immortal. The thought disgusts me. I would know more than I'd ever care to know. I would have an advantage over others that I don't want. I would take up resources that could have gone to others, and suck out space from newer and fresher perspectives on account of my age. I would see all my loved ones die in front of me, and never have someone who would live to miss me. Now, what if everyone else was immortal too. That is as close to the idea of hell that I can get. Very quickly, we'd use up this planet's resources, cause stagnation, and only spread misery around us. After picturing all this, I am so utterly grateful that I will die. And I am very happy that no one one this planet will be subjected to the torments of immortality.
This reflection is not unique to me, but really is ageless. The mythology that surrounds Alexander the Great has it that when he was in India, he found the river of immortality. Just as he was about to drink from it, a bird on the perch of a tree called out to him, "O fool, wait before you drink." When Alexander looked up, the bird narrated how it had made the mistake of becoming immortal. No fire would burn it, no sword would cut it, and it had tried unsuccessfully to end its life, but could not, for the rest of time. The enormity of this curse struck Alexander, and he refrained from drinking the water. The same sentiment lies behind this myth.
I liked Viral's emphasis on the ending of this passage, that although we have to be mindful of the fact that we are mortal, we have to go slow. I may be hurtling toward my own death, but I have time, for time is a construct of my mind. This connects beautifully with last week's passage, The Problem of Time.
After we went around the group, I was deeply inspired by the personal stories shared by many members. Many thoughts were sparked.
Different cultures have a different take on death. The Tibetan Book of the Dead says that death is not a single point as we would consider, but a process that takes a while. Well, we are living and dying right now. Tibetan and Hindu philosophy both caution us from mourning when someone is passing on. They exhort us instead to create a powerful and holy atmosphere, where the one who is passing on is reminded of the important, and is sent off with love, strength and courage. When growing up, my father used to tell me that it was important not to be sad, as the soul who has passed would feel my pain and would be deeply pained. Whether this is true or not, what is certainly true is that my sorrow would affect those in front of me. The source of my sorrow is the love I have received from the one who has departed. Then, why not pay it forward to those around, by reminding them of the importance of this love, loving them in that moment, and wishing the universe the very best?
This is all easy to say, and there is more to it. When my grandfather was passing, my father's instruction was foremost, and as that was the first death which I saw at close quarters, I assumed it was the norm to do what my father had instructed. I felt no sorrow at all. Somehow, I knew for sure that his time had come. And two days before he died, while he still had some level of consciousness in the hospital, I was deeply concerned that he should remember who he was. So, I whispered in his ear that he should prepare himself. When we brought his body back, on one end, my father stood in an ocean of calm, absorbed in the chants of freedom that were sung, while my mother had completely broken down. She had always connected with her father-in-law as her own father. For a long time, I thought it was her weakness. But now I know that it was her humanity. And I am so grateful that she is the way she is, and that my father is the way he is.
Death connects us with our own humanity. The other day, I was on the phone with someone who had tragically lost her brother. Before taking the call, I told my wife about it as I'd known this earlier. She heard only my end of the conversation as I listened, and responded to the space I was in. After I hung up, I looked at her and saw that she was in tears. Death had overcome incomplete information, and connected my wife to the pain of someone she did not know and would probably never meet. I felt blessed to see those tears, remembering my own humanity.

On Feb 11, 2012 joy wrote:
 from the first book of hers I read when it first came out, I knew I'd found a teacher. It helped me greatly in my private work with the dying and their families. I wish to express my life long gratitude for her teachings....
'today is a good day to die!'

On Apr 5, 2013 Amy wrote:

 I am with Joy!  Thank you for this read!  
That I may follow . . .  

On Nov 4, 2018 king king wrote:


timberland boots outlet   fake rolex   coach factory outlet online   converse shoes   coach outlet   michael kors outlet canada   polo ralph lauren outlet   prada handbags   adidas shoes   pandora jewelry outlet   jordan shoes   coach outlet   cheap jordan shoes   polo ralph lauren outlet online   ray ban sunglasses discount   christian louboutin outlet   jordan retro   nike air max shoes   canada goose outlet   cincinnati reds jerseys   coach factory outlet   tory burch outlet   ysl handbags   nike shoes   kate spade outlet   michael kors handbags   kansas city royals jerseys   oakley sunglasses outlet   milwaukee brewers jerseys   gucci outlet   adidas superstar   ralph lauren sale clearance   coach outlet online   adidas nmd   fitflops   north face outlet   nike air max zero   uggs outlet   moncler outlet   coach canada outlet   ugg boots   nike huarache   adidas stan smith   ugg boots   air max 90   christian louboutin   michael kors outlet clearance   polo outlet store   kate spade   tory burch outlet online   coach outlet   fitflops   ugg outlet   air jordans   prada outlet   coach outlet   ugg boots   ultra boost   san diego padres jerseys   pandora jewelry   birkenstock   coach outlet   christian louboutin   rolex watches   ecco outlet   adidas nmd   pandora charms   christian louboutin outlet   nike air max 95   pandora charms   ralph lauren outlet   fred perry   adidas outlet   nike air max   swarovski crystal   houston astros jerseys   ecco shoes   louboutin shoes   kevin durant shoes   michael kors outlet online   fendi handbags   salvatore ferragamo shoes   kobe bryant shoes   ugg outlet   michael kors outlet   polo ralph lauren outlet   timberland boots   nike shoes   canada goose outlet   jordan shoes   louis vuitton outlet store   adidas shoes   jordan retro 11   adidas yeezy   birkenstocks   nike react shoes   adidas shoes   uggs outlet   uggs   ugg australia   los angeles dodgers jerseys   skechers shoes   toms shoes   lacoste polo shirts   moncler outlet   nike shoes   canadian goose   coach handbags   canada goose sale   canada goose outlet   canada goose jackets   canada goose   canada goose jackets   philipp plein outlet   timberland boots   polo ralph lauren outlet   adidas yeezy boost   canada goose sale   ugg outlet   fitflops sale clearance   cheap jordans   coach factory outlet   jordans   ralph lauren uk   adidas   pandora jewelry   coach factory outlet   pandora charms   birkenstock outlet   uggs outlet   canada goose jackets   canada goose outlet   timberland outlet   coach outlet   nike cortez   hermes handbags   kate spade bags   pittsburgh pirates jerseys   coach factory outlet   coach factory outlet   canada goose outlet   nike cortez   pandora outlet   uggs canada   oakley sunglasses   air more uptempo   cheap oakley sunglasses   nike outlet   kate spade   nike outlet   adidas nmd   louis vuitton outlet online   nike tessen   coach outlet   cheap jordans   pandora jewelry official site   moncler jackets   new balance outlet   toms outlet   ugg outlet   uggs   michael kors outlet   adidas campus   adidas yeezy boost   coach factory outlet   nfl jerseys wholesale   cleveland indians jerseys   yeezy boost   pandora outlet   coach canada   adidas superstar   pandora charms   asics shoes   ralph lauren outlet   ralph lauren   pandora   coach factory outlet   pandora jewelry   fitflops   nmd adidas   coach factory outlet   fitflops sale   coach factory outlet   uggs outlet   kate spade bags   canada goose outlet   cheap nike air max   hermes bags   dr martens   moncler outlet online   north face jackets   pandora jewelry   uggs outlet   new balance shoes   uggs outlet   kate spade handbags   christian louboutin outlet   moncler jackets   oakley sunglasses   coach factory outlet   replica watches   kate spade outlet   adidas yeezy   polo outlet   coach outlet store online clearances   cheap mlb jerseys   pandora charms sale   michael kors outlet   salomon shoes   nike air max   cheap nfl jerseys   nike shoes   fred perry polo   michael kors outlet clearance   uggs   cheap jordans free shipping   michael kors outlet online   adidas shoes   louis vuitton outlet   salvatore ferragamo shoes   canada goose outlet   uggs outlet store   converse outlet store   michael kors handbags   jimmy choo outlet   coach factorty outlet   kate spade outlet   canada goose outlet   pandora jewelry   columbia sportswear   nike outlet   cartier outlet   ray ban sunglasses   kate spade handbags   coach outlet   oakley sunglasses   michael kors outlet clearance   nike shoes   moncler outlet   birkenstock shoes   ray ban sunglasses   uggs canada   cheap jordans for sale   birkenstock sandals   coach factorty outlet   ugg boots   coach factory outlet   dr martens boots   ralph lauren outlet   adidas nmd shoes   ugg outlet   kate spade handbags   coach outlet   hermes handbags   pandora jewelry   converse all star   uggs outlet store   polo ralph lauren outlet online   adidas originals   ray ban sunglasses   kate spade   canada goose outlet   mlb jerseys   pandora jewelry   coach outlet store   christian louboutin   timberland boots   jordan shoes   cheap jordan shoes   jordan shoes   ralph lauren outlet   tory burch outlet   longchamp handbags   pandora jewelry   pandora outlet   michael kors outlet   ralph lauren uk   pandora store   yeezy boost 350   timberland outlet   uggs outlet   adidas yeezy boost   air max 2018   oakland athletics jerseys   coach outlet store   tiffany and co   coach outlet   valentino shoes   air max 2017   tampa bay devil rays jerseys   ugg boots   michael kors outlet   kate spade handbag   moncler outlet   polo outlet   coach factory outlet online   nike air max outlet   red bottom shoes   longchamp outlet   ugg outlet   cheap ray bans   jimmy choo   canada goose outlet   polo outlet   ecco shoes   coach factory outlet   kate spade outlet store   canada goose jackets   michael kors   canada goose outlet   pandora outlet   canada goose outlet   moncler   asics outlet   christian louboutin outlet   nike basketball shoes   ugg outlet store   nike outlet online   louis vuitton   cristiano ronaldo jerseys   ralph lauren outlet   ugg boots   kate spade outlet   vans shoes   underarmour shoes   nike free run   burberry outlet   kate spade outlet store   mont blanc   louis vuitton outlet online   jordan shoes   nike zoom   tory burch outlet   birkenstock sandals   coach outlet   nike air max 1   moncler jackets   michael kors outlet   michael kors outlet   kate spade outlet store   birkenstock outlet   nike outlet online   uggs outlet   fitflops sale clearance   nike shoes for men   birkenstock sandals   cheap jordans   dr martens outlet   uggs outlet   kate spade handbags   true religion outlet online   longchamp handbags   baltimore orioles jerseys   nike air max 87   kate spade handbag   ugg boots   nike shox   nike air more money   fitflops   coach factorty outlet   pandora jewelry official site   longchamp outlet   michael kors outlet online   hermes birkin   nike air max   uggs outlet   columbia shoes   coach outlet store   air jordan shoes   michael kors handbags   nike outlet store   seattle mariners jerseys   adidas shoes   ecco shoes   oakley sunglasses   nike huarache   michael kors outlet online   ugg outlet   texas rangers jersey   louboutin shoes   adidas outlet   kate spade outlet   adidas yeezy   adidas shoes   air max 97   kate spade outlet   uggs   ugg outlet   nike zoom   oakley sunglasses   true religion outlet   coach outlet store online   moncler outlet   toronto blue jays jerseys   pandora charms sale clearance   supra shoes   philipp plein shirt   moncler outlet   ralph lauren sale clearance   canadian goose   jordan shoes   air max 2018   ysl outlet   coach outlet online   kate spade outlet   pandora charms   michael kors outlet   louis vuitton   reebok shoes   jimmy choo outlet   timberland boots   michael kors outlet   moncler outlet   oakley sunglasses   los angeles angels jerseys   new york mets jerseys   air jordans   ugg outlet   michael kors outlet   kobe shoes   coach outlet   coach outlet   louboutin shoes   moncler outlet   nike air presto   nike free 4.0   ugg boots   hermes handbags   coach outlet   nike outlet   coach outlet   pandora jewelry   ralph lauren sale clearance   coach   minnesota twins jerseys   pandora charms   coach factory outlet   fitflops sale clearance   canada goose jackets   canada goose outlet   pandora charms   coach outlet   nike dunks   fitflops   arizona diamondbacks jerseys   pandora charms sale clearance   lebron james shoes   coach outlet online   ugg outlet   pg 2   ralph lauren sale   birkenstock sandals   uggs outlet   uggs outlet   coach outlet   ugg outlet   air jordan shoes   cheap nfl jerseys   timberland boots   fitflops   ugg outlet   gucci outlet   moncler outlet   supra shoes   coach outlet store   moncler outlet   air max 97   air max 2019   birkenstock shoes   kate spade   nike outlet   pandora jewelry   coach outlet store   swarovski outlet   colorado rockies jerseys   discount oakley sunglasses   florida marlins jerseys   salvatore ferragamo   coach outlet   nike store   rolex watches   ugg outlet   yeezy boost   ecco shoes for men   chicago white sox jerseys   pandora jewelry outlet   kate spade bags   toms outlet   coach outlet   atlanta braves jerseys   adidas outlet   cheap oakley sunglasses   kate spade outlet   yeezy boost   christian louboutin shoes   pandora charms   coach outlet   louis vuitton handbags   gucci outlet   gucci handbags   pandora charms sale clearance   louis vuitton outlet   adidas outlet   canada goose outlet   coach outlet   coach outlet store   michael kors outlet   yeezy 350 boost   kyrie 4 shoes   mont blanc pens   dansko shoes   vans store cc20181105