Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Why Not Be Ready?

--by Tenzin Palmo (Apr 15, 2013)

Our everyday life is our spiritual life. If we have awareness to be able to use our everyday life as practice, then our lives have meaning. Otherwise, the days go by—impermanence, as we know—moment to moment to moment, day after day, year after year, and suddenly, there we are, faced with death, and what have we done? We don’t know when we are going to die. Every breath we take could be our last breath: we don’t know. When we wake up in the morning, we should say, “How amazing that I lasted this whole day and I haven’t died yet.” Who knows when we’ll die? We honestly don’t know. All these people killed in accidents on the road—did they think they were going to die? Death comes without respect for age or success or beauty or health. When we go, we go. So we have to live each day as if it were our last. If we really thought, “Tomorrow, I’m going to die,” what would we do with today? Surely we would really start to re-evaluate our whole situation.

Once when I was in my cave, there was a raging blizzard and I was snowed in. The blizzard blew seven days and seven nights non-stop and the cave was completely covered. When I opened the window, there was just a sheet of ice; when I opened the door, there was a sheet of ice. I thought, “This is it,” because the cave was very small and I would surely run out of oxygen and die. So I got myself all ready [...] and I went through my life. I regretted the things I had done wrong, and I rejoiced in the things I had done right. It was very salutary because I really believed that I only had a day or two left at most. It really put things into perspective—what was important and what was not important; what was important for me to think and what was totally irrelevant for me to think. Normally our minds are filled with non-stop chatter, the running commentary of totally useless soap-opera dialogue that we present to ourselves. But when we believe we’ve only got a limited amount of time to keep thinking, we become very discriminating in our thoughts, and much more conscious of how we’re using our time and of what we’re doing with our mind.

If we live thinking that each day is our last, it helps us appreciate each moment. This is not being fatalistic or gloomy. If this was our last day on earth, we would be careful of our time. We wouldn’t create more problems; we would try to solve the problems we already have. We’d be nice to people. If we’re not going to see them again, why not be nice to them? Wouldn’t we be kind to our family, our children, our partners, and the people that we’re leaving, if we thought we were never going to see them again? Because, who knows? We might not. One day, we won’t.

Why not be ready?

-- Tenzin Palmo, excerpted from "Into the Heart of Life"

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Previous Reflections:

On Apr 12, 2013 Kokil wrote:

 I am so amazed to read this passage today. Just last night my mentor started me on my journey of  'conversations with death'. Yesterday was the first time I was told to prepare for death. I saw myself dropping my dramas one by one as I began to live my truth, moving from rejection to compassion, anger to acceptance and slowly many more such realizations dawned on me. This was just the beginning of something very profound. The process is on and the journey on the path has just begun.

On Apr 12, 2013 Ricky wrote:

A beautiful way to look at this piece is the story of the resolve of a Holocaust survivor to do better.  Her story is told in the 2008 TEDtalk by Benjamin Zander (Classical music and shining eyes) about how after her parents were 'gone' and she and her little brother were on the train to Auschwietz.  She looked down and noticed her brother had no shoes, and she chided him for always forgetting everything and how stupid he was.  This ended up being the last thing she said to him because she never saw him again.  She said she vowed after she survived her ordeal in the concentration camp this...'I will never say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing I ever say.' 

On Apr 12, 2013 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 I am aged 81.  I'm in good health so I think I have about seven or eight more years of living in this body..  Recently I have thought more about how fast seven or eighty years go by.   Normally, my mind is filled with nonstop chatter, but as I get older, I think more of being no one going nowhere.  When I am no one going nowhere  I die and am born  each second.  Also when I am no one going nowhere, there is no separate I too have a problem so  there are already no problems.  When I am no one going nowhere, I notice I am more one with everyone and everything  and that everyone and everything is impermanent. This piece reminded me of the story of Zorba the Greek who once met a 95-year-old man planting in oak tree.  Zorba said something like, "Hey old man don't you know it takes a very long time for the oak tree to grow?"   And the old man said: "I live as though I am never going to die."  And Zorba then said: "And I live as though each day were my last."

On Apr 12, 2013 jo wrote:

Conrad, may we all take heed to the wisdom of Zorba the Greek.  Love it . . . love you!  Eternal life in you!

On Apr 12, 2013 Amy wrote:

 When I was a little person, I thought my life was was going to be relatively short!  As early as the second grade, and preparing to receive Jesus in the sacrament of First Eucharist, I decided and told God I needed a Father.  True to His word, He came.  
Faithfully, nightly He came to tuck me into bed at night, to tell me that He loves me, to tell me that He sees me, to tell me "I Am here", to tell me that I am safe in Him, to tell me to listen, to tell me to obey, to tell me He'd be my "Wing Man". . .  etc.. 
Interestingly, at that same time, while attending Catholic School and struggling with reading (now to know, I've dyslexia),  I found our library to carry a series of books highlighting the saints that, by the Grace of my Father, I could READ!  Each saint I read about, however, experienced God deeply and then died.
Such was the way my young mind processed what I read in relation to my own experience.  I thought God only "came near" to lead one to "that new place He prepared."  
What I learned in all of this; whether here on earth or born to heaven, we LIVE.  Thanks be to God . . . My faithful Father!

Very Thankful for YOU!        

On Apr 13, 2013 Tim wrote:

The feeling that I have time is certainly something we most 'naturally' take for granted. Time is the factor that has us think of death as something far away. So that, unconsciously, one has dissociated life from death and doesn't see anymore how both relate to the present. Time-thought, as J.K. would say, to signify that time is thought and reversely: would there be a sense of time if I had no memory, no thought? And our action results from this thought-feeling that I have time. If I could contract that span that is supposed to separate life from death, that would arouse in me that sense of urgency that is often so terribly lacking in my every day experience and resulting action. Time acts as the greatest of our 'shock absorbers' as Mr.G. would say, and is cause of all procrastination.
Seeing that and yet not acutely feeling the imminence of death, can I consciously bring dying in my every day experience? (P.S.: no time, presently, to elaborate!)

On Apr 13, 2013 david doane wrote:

 As I read this piece, I remembered a favorite passage of mine (from The Evening Gatha): "Let me respectfully remind you, life and death are of supreme importance.  Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.  Each of us should strive to awaken.  Awaken!  Take heed, do not squander your life."  I've been focusing for a while now on the reality that life and death are occurring constantly.  This piece also reminds me that one day will be my last day in this physical body of mine, and that is a reality that is also valuable to keep in mind.  If today was my last day in this life  and I knew that, I suppose I would be thinking of happinesses and good fortunes that I have had and I would be grateful, and I would be sad that this life experience is ending, and I would ache over some regrets, and I would want to have another contact and good bye with people that are dearest to me, and I'd be wondering in a more focused way what will happen and what will I be and do after I die in this life, and I'd have some scaredness about post this death, and I'd be hoping for a peaceful transition, and I would be happy that I got to have this life, and I'd likely have at least brief flashes wondering whether traditional things I was taught about post death would happen, and I'd be sad and missing those people and this life that I would imagine I won't get to live anymore.  I think keeping in mind that there will be a last day of this earthly bodily experience is good for my evolution because it reminds me that this time is limited which encourages and motivates me to use it well.  I don't think I was forced but I was strongly oriented as a child to think that today could be my last day so be ready, and I remember it as a scary message and warning.  Now I think more in terms of living each day as though it is may be my last, which I don't very often do, and I experience the thought as positive and worthwhile to keep in mind.  Thanks for the important reminder. 

On Apr 14, 2013 susan schaller wrote:

 I was confused when my father said he was grateful for his pain.  He couldn't sleep from the pain caused by cancer in all of his bones, from his skull to his toes.  He said the pain reminded him of time, reminded him to be the person he had always wanted to be, now.   It took me many years, after his death, to understand his gratitude and the message that he received from his pain: NOW; love now, live now.  I knew he gave me a gift, but it took me years to understand how valuable it is. I now try to see the message in each fleeting feeling, including pain, then reach out to love and life, letting go of the feeling or pain, after it has served its purpose.  I fail everyday, but keep practicing.  That exercise is what will make me ready for anything in life and for death.

On Apr 15, 2013 Trisette wrote:

How I look at life I would say is we should always treasure the moment we have in life, we should show love, care and forgive others as we might not get the chance to it or might be too late. At the same time we should never waste our time on people who give us pain, disappointment and let us down. Some people might change down the line but most are not willing to change. My own experience in life, I dated someone i dearly dearly loved and stood by him through the most difficult time in his life for thirteen years. But in the end I was taken for granted and he had no room for me in his life. His first preference was his family then business. My pain, hurt or tears was never felt by him, but i still kept on going with the belief he would change. But with time i realized he only wanted me to secure him self knowing I am there but not willing to give anything out to me by being there for me..... It was the most painful thing for me to take the decision if i should continue watching him devote his time for others or to pull away and find my happiness.  I chose the difficult path to pull away. Battle away from him. It is not easy but we should live for us , for our happiness for our dreams and support and make the others around us happy. But is it worth it living with someone who wants pain and tears in your eyes every minute. Always treasure the one you love who will not give you pain and hurt. The person who dont want tears in your eyes becoz he feels your pain. The person who would understand you without you talking or saying anything. The person who would love you and have time for you at any time of the day. Life is not worth suffering over people who want to see you in pain and suffer. Life is about giving a life to another person who feels dead inside. Who think he / she is worthless. Making another life important and seeing another persons smile is my priority in life. i dont want anyone to go through or feel what I did in the past few years and if I can reach out to anyone in my situation I would. As nobody deserves to live in hurt we all want to be happy.

On Apr 15, 2013 Gay Batson Jagger's wrote:

 When I chose to be the best care giver I could be for my husband, three years passed by quickly. Suddenly, I was a widow. After realizing each breathe he received was a blessing, I knew my life would be filled with thankfulness and grace.  Pretending to realize the true meaning of Aloha! Hello or Good -bye helped me to live each day with true thankfulness!  Time travels fast, and can be fleeting away quickly. Make the most of each breathe!

On Apr 16, 2013 ashish gupta wrote:

 gone through your feelings i would say it may be one side of the coin ....if u really involve with someone holding the truth in your hand .....the things surely will change in your way ......and if it doesnt make sure that u were going towards the wrong direction... but atleast  feel satisfy and gratitude for the remaining life of doing the right and the best i had done .....and as far as law of nature is there... what  u have done will not go waste..  all the things will be returned back to u may be from some more precious person  

On Apr 16, 2013 Rekha wrote:

 à¤¹à¤® तैयार क्यों न रहें?

-तेनजिन पामो (१ ७  à¤…प्रेल , २ ० १ ३)
हमारी रोजमर्रा की जिंदगी ही हमारा आध्यात्मिक जीवन है। अगर हममें अपने आम जीवन को एक ध्यान की तरह देखने की जागरूकता हो, तभी हमारे इस जीवन का कोई फ़ायदा है, नहीं तो दिन गुज़रते रहते हैं, नश्वरता, जैसा कि हम जानते हैं - एक पल के बाद दूसरा पल, एक दिन के बाद दूसरा दिन, एक साल के बाद दूसरा साल, और फिर अचानक मौत के दरवाज़े तक पहुँच जाते हैं, और तब लगता है हमने इस जीवन का क्या उपयोग किया? हमें यह मालूम नहीं है कि मृत्यु किस पल आ जाये। हर सांस हमारी आखिरी सांस हो सकती है: क्या पता है। जब हम सुबह सो कर उठते हैं, तो हमें यह कहना चाहिए, "कितने आश्चर्य की बात है कि एक और पूरा दिन निकल गया और मैं अभी भी जिंदा हूँ।" कौन जानता है कि कौन सा दिन उसका आखिरी दिन होगा? हमें असल में इस बात की कोई खबर नहीं है। वो सब लोग जो सड़क दुर्घटनाओं में मारे जाते हैं, क्या उन्होंने यह सोचा होगा कि वे मरने के लिए जा रहे थे? मौत इंसान की उम्र, सफलता, सौंदर्य या स्वास्थ्य का ख्याल करके नहीं आती। जब हमारा जाने का समय आ जाता है, तो हम चले जाते हैं।तो हमें प्रत्येक दिन को ऐसे जीना होगा जैसे वो हमारा आखिरी दिन हैै। अगर हम ध्यान से सोचें कि, "कल मैं मरने जा रहा हूँ," तो आप अपने आज को कैसे उपयोग करेंगे? निश्चित रूप से हम अपनी पूरी स्थिति का ठीक से मूल्यांकन करना शुरू कर देंगे।
एक बार जब मैं अपनी गुफा में था, एक उग्र बर्फानी तूफान आया और मैं उस बर्फ में कैद हो गया। वो बर्फानी तूफान सात दिन और सात रात लगातार चलता रहा और गुफा पूरी तरह ढ़क गयी । जब मैंने खिड़की खोली, सिर्फ बर्फ की एक चादर नज़र आई; जब मैंने दरवाजा खोला, वहाँ भी सिर्फ बर्फ की चादर थी। मैंने सोचा, "मैं अब बचुंगा नहीं," क्योंकि गुफा बहुत छोटी थी और निश्चित ही उसमें ऑक्सीजन खत्म हो जाएगी और मैं मर जाउंगा । तो मैंने अपने आप को  à¤‡à¤¸ बात के लिए पूरी तरह तैयार कर लिया[...]और मैं अपने बीते जीवन के बारे में सोचने लगा । मुझसे जो काम ग़लत हुए, उन पर मुझे दुख था, और जो काम ठीक हुए उन पर मुझे खुशी हुई । यह सोचना बहुत हितकारी था क्योंकि मुझे असल में ऐसा लग रहा था कि मैं एक या दो दिन से ज़्यादा नहीं बचुंगा । मेरा दृष्टिकोण ही बदल गया - जीवन में क्या ज़रूरी है क्या नहीं, क्या सोचने के लायक है क्या नहीं । आम तौर पर हमारा दिमाग़ लगातार बेकार की बातों से भरा रहता है, दिमाग में बराबर चल रहे फिल्मी डायलौग पर दी जा रही हमारी आलोचना । लेकिन जब हमें लगता है कि हमारे पास सोचने का वक़्त बहुत कम है तो हम अपने विचारों पर सोच समझ कर समय लगाते हैं, और इस बात की तरफ़ बहुत ज़्यादा ध्यान देते हैं कि हम अपने समय का कैसे उपयोग कर रहे हैं और अपने मन को किस ओर लगा रहे हैं ।

यदि हम यह सोच कर जीते हैं कि हर दिन हमारा आखिरी दिन है, तो। यह विचार हमें हर पल को मूल्यवान समझने में मदद करता है । यह भाग्यवादी या उदास होना नहीं है । यदि यह हमारा इस धरती पर आखिरी दिन होता, तो हम अपने समय को सावधानी से इस्तेमाल करेंगे । हम और अधिक समस्याऐं नहीं पैदा करेंगे; जो समस्याऐं हमारे पास पहले से हैं, हम उनको हल करने की कोशिश करेंगे । हम और लोगों से अच्छा व्यवहार करेंगे । अगर हम उन्हें फिर कभी नहीं मिल पायेंगे तो क्यों न उनसे अच्छा  à¤µà¥à¤¯à¤µà¤¹à¤¾à¤° किया जाए? अगर हम यह सोचें कि हम फ़िर इन्हें कभी नहीं मिल पायेंगे, तो क्या हम अपने परिवार, बच्चों, सहयोगियों, और उन सब लोगों को जिन्हें हम छोड़ कर जा रहे हैं, के साथ अच्छा बर्ताव नहीं करेंगे? क्योंकि, कौन जानता है? हम न रहें । एक दिन, हम नहीं रहेंगे । 
हम तैयार क्यों न रहें?
-तेनजिन पामो, "जीवन के हृदय में" के कुछ अंश

On Apr 16, 2013 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

Four significant events that occurred in  my relatively long life( 87 years ) woke me up from my daily sleepiness. The first one was I was 19 years old when  I for the first time fell passionately in love which resulted in total loss of  interest in living-a not successful  effort in dying. It took quite some time for me to wake up for my life to be back on track. The second event was witnessing the peaceful passing away of my father's life. It was another wake up call for me to realize the impermanace of life-another wake up call. The third was passing away of my mother in India  while I was in the USA. The fourth one happened just six months  ago when the sixty years of loving relationship ended by her passing away. Watching her peacefully passing away had the most powerful impact on me. It made me realize the significance of living my everyday mindfully, compassionately  and as fully as I can. It is a slow and gradual awakening, like aging gracefully and consciously. In my case, I needed powerful reminders not only to open my inner eyes but to keep them open. I needed to fall down to learn to stand up. I hastened slowly. Thanks for doing such a life awakening and enriching work you are doing.

Jagdish P Dave

On Apr 16, 2013 Syd wrote:

 I have read everyone’s comments and I appreciate everyone’s truth, even your willingness to look at death as truth.
I have experienced so much death, in and around me, life feels now like nothingness.  This last death is like love has died, there is nothing true or valuable in which to I can believe in.  There is nothing left in which I feel I can attach myself.  In my nothingness, though, I do not feel hopeless nor do I feel my mental connections going haywire.  It seems I have not deteriorated into true craziness because I am not terrified by fear. 
Fear is this need to be nothing and literally death is a sense of nothingness.  Death is filled with this deep experience of nothingness and nothingness offers no authority to put the anxiety to rest.  We do not look at death because of fear, the fear of being nothing.  And yet fear is not based on death itself, but it is the fear of things that might happen.  The inability to look at death also arises because we do not feel supported and with guidance.  So to me, to look at death is to look at my own nothingness.
Leaving the familiar stepping into nothingness is like walking off the edge of the world.  It takes a deep faith to counteract the terror and the despair.  My life is death; daily is my end as death.  Faith within these daily deaths creates nothingness.  There is no belief nor can I convince myself certain beliefs are true.  So it seems to persevere I need to make this leap into nothingness and move beyond any beliefs.  Death is nothingness, only everything arises from this Nothingness, empty and yet full of potentiality.  Death has taught me the freedom to be nothing and this is the source of Life.  

On Apr 16, 2013 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 Leap of faith-resonates with me. To live fully knowing the beginning and the end is nothingness. Such paradoxical of relating to the truth-the reality help me to go though the maze of life Not. dwelling on such felt truth but remaining connected with it helps me-the connected with the two sides of the river of life-birth and death.

Jagdish P Dave

On Apr 16, 2013 D.T.Thorwe wrote:

 We have been conditioned to think that the living is separate from the death and therefore we avaoid to face the death alongwith living. In the understanding of this fact only, one can discover that the living is the dying. then no fear of any kind in relationship has place in day today life.

On Apr 16, 2013 Rekha wrote:

 If one can at least pose the question - who am  I? - the rest of the life along with the answers you pursue will become clearer. Am I this body, senses, sensory organs, mind, or intellect? Or something more subtle and beyond all the outer layers? The next question to ask would be - why am I here? Even if the answers are not clear right now precisely, there is a general direction. The purpose of every Jeevatma or soul is to understand the reality of that One Supreme Being, there are various sadhnas to get there and our whole life has to become a Sadhna to reach that goal; it is never too soon to embark upon that journey because even though our time on this earth is determined the moment we are born but we don't know how long we have. It is said that human life is granted once after going through millions of life forms and it is only in this form that one can attain God. We cannot vile away this precious human life on mundane thoughts, relationships and actions. Higher we get his lifetime, closer we are to attaining oneness with God and exactly where we get to start next time.

On Apr 17, 2013 Ashish Gupta wrote:

very truly said ...i think that pursue of these two question is the only 1st step towards the start of the journey of ourself to recognize ourself or feeling of our oneness with the supreme... Also i feel that we should develop the attitude of applying it practically and ceaselessly in whatever we do 24x7 and try to feel the difference of changes comes through it 

On Apr 18, 2013 Tim wrote:

I have just listened to an extraordinary interview of Andrew Harvey titled The Death and the Birth. I warmly recommend it to all. ( sites: Jason Elijah/ Andrew Harvey or

On Apr 19, 2013 Peace wrote:

Appreciate the message and reminder not to take time and life for granted.
I specificall enjoyed learning from few lines within different comments :

I fail everyday but i try again

we are living and dieing every moment

'I will never say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing I ever say.'

On Apr 20, 2013 D.T.Thorwe wrote:

 Yes ! Everything including thought is transient and therefore dies.
Death always makes a room  for the new to come into being which is the truth

On Apr 20, 2013 JoAnn Baker Paul wrote:


"2. A certain young man came to Mother with some peach and plum stones in his hand, and asked her if he might plant them? 'Yea,' answered Mother, 'do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you must die to-morrow."

 From pp. 242-3 of the 1888 edition of Testimonies of the Life, Character, Revelations and Doctrines of Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers.