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Why Meditating on Our Mortality Makes Us More Alive

We access more light when we don’t deny darkness

Jodi Barnes, PhD
6 min readDec 23, 2019


Forget causality. Forget deserved. Forget sin and karma.

I mean, if we really want to pick any of those back up — we can do that. But for now, let’s just imagine not asking ourselves why bad things happen to people. Especially the good ones we love. (How could we love them if they weren’t good?)

Put religion down — momentarily. Deities aside, there is one unifying response we humans have to death and pain and suffering:

This happened without my knowledge or consent; this terrible thing that’s happened is out of my control.

And this makes us mad. And sad. And anxious and scared. All at the same time.

And those who love us, who are concerned about the depths of our grief, get sad and sometimes mad (at least frustrated) when we don’t accept what’s happened or heal fast enough or in the right way.

Death and pain and suffering bring out the pain and suffering in others. It’s empathy at its damned finest.

Yet, death and pain and suffering bring out beautiful things that we tend to overlook: Truth and wisdom. Take W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.



Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.