When the mind is at ease and comfortable, reflecting on the end of life can more naturally follow. Precious insights may spontaneously spring forth about life’s end.
The intent and purpose behind the five photo galleries, described below, is to aid in bringing the mind to a quieter place during the time spent in looking at and enjoying the photos.
Furthermore, the natural beauty in many of the nature images may for Christians evoke contemplating the Kingdom of God on earth. For Buddhists, the images may call to mind aspirations for a Pure Land.
Many website visitors may well be far removed from such peaceful natural settings. (My wife and I recall living in a high-rise city apartment building on the ninth floor when we taught English in Asia.) Also, some visitors may be shut-ins for health reasons or advanced age.
The six photo galleries are as follows:
At a Cemetery
To stroll in the peaceful grounds of a cemetery, such as early in the morning or on a quiet afternoon, can greatly aid in reflecting on life and death.
Furthermore, pausing to read epitaph inscriptions on gravestones leads to insightful and meaningful contemplation.
By the Sea
Time alone by the sea can be another ideal setting for reflecting on the end of life. Additionally, a number of people choose to scatter the ashes of their departed loved one(s) by the sea.
The rolling waves, crashing or gently coming ashore, remind one of impermanence – how like waves of the ocean, all things are truly impermanent.
Down by the Ocean
Walking along an open ocean, one can feel a sense of calm, peacefulness, and well-being.
This can be wonderfully conducive for reflecting on end-of-life realities.
Beside a Lake
A lakeside setting can also be a place for peaceful solitude to reflect on the end of life – the timing and circumstances of which are unknown for each of us.
The stillness and serenity beside a lake, or a quietly flowing river, is ideal for contemplating life and beyond.
In a Garden
Strolling in a garden with flowers in bloom, I am reminded of these words from the Bible: “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, …” (1 Peter 1:24, NIV).
Furthermore, these words hold insight: “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these” (Luke 12:27, NIV).
Finally, William Blake wrote: “To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. … (From the poem “Auguries of Innocence”)
Seeing flowers grow, blossom, and wither can bring awareness and understanding of how our own lives arise, abide, and abate – the transitory nature of life.
At an Abstract Art Exhibition
A connection exists between abstract art and reflecting on spirituality. In fact, a number of abstract artists have used abstraction to suggest ultimate ideals.
For some website visitors (admittedly not all), a gallery of abstract art may prompt or aid their reflection on end-of-life themes such as aging, dying, death, and the afterlife.
[Artwork used with permission from Jindrich (Henry) Degen, Czech-Australian artist, 1923- . www.henrydegen.com]
Reflection and Contemplation
In sum, the intent for featuring each photo gallery is for some, who may be inclined, to use the images as a backdrop against which to reflect or contemplate themes such as:
(1) Having a Precious Human Life
(a) Do I take my present favourable life’s opportunities for granted?
(b) Am I grateful for the well-being I have at this time?
(c) Am I appreciative for the conditions conducive for spiritual practice that I have?
(d) Am I thankful for the supportive group of spiritual friends that I have?
(e) Do I realize that nothing happens without a cause – therefore, the freedoms and fortune I am enjoying today must be due to accrued merit in the past. And so, I must not waste the opportunities I have today!
(2) Accepting Impermanence and Death
(a) Know that death is definite and inevitable – for every person alive.
(b) Realize that the time of death is uncertain – I don’t know when I’ll die.
(c) Understand that my material possessions, as well as friends and relatives, cannot help to prevent my death.
(d) Prepare for death now, seeing my mortality and transient nature.
(e) Let me know and understand the importance of making my life meaningful.
(3) Understanding Karma (Cause and Effect)
(a) Do I deeply know that karma is definite? Happiness always comes from useful and beneficial actions – and pain from unhelpful and damaging ones.
(b) Do I realize that karma is expandable? A seemingly small cause can lead to a large outcome or result. And small negativity can likewise lead to a large effect.
(c) Do I appreciate that if a cause has not been produced, then an effect or outcome will not be experienced?
(d) Am I sobered by the fact that karmic latencies will not get lost – and that I will experience their results at some stage? [However, negative latencies can be purified by the four opponent powers – power of regret, (not guilt); power of the foundation; power of turning away from faults; power of remedial behaviour – but, positive latencies can be impaired by our getting angry or generating distorted views. (Chodron, Thubten. Guided Buddhist Meditations, p. 87. Shambhala. Kindle Edition.)]
(e) Am I determined and resolute in watching and observing my motivations and actions from now on – so that I can create the causes of happiness and avoid the causes of suffering?
(4) Recognizing the Inherent Suffering in Life
(a) Can I imagine myself as an old, frail person – with the unavoidable decline of my physical and mental abilities?
(b) Have I experienced getting sick without choice, or even control, on my part – or, the sickness of others in the same predicament (such as those suffering with Parkinson’s Disease or dementia)?
(c) Have I encountered problems, even though I did my best to avoid them?
(d) Have I not worked so hard in trying to obtain something – and yet did not acquire or achieve it?
(e) Have I not found it difficult to contend with strong negative emotions at times, that seemed to arise from nowhere?
(5) Having Equal Love for All
(a) May I and all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness.
(b) May I and all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
(c) May I and all beings have the happiness of complete Awakening that will never diminish or fail.
(d) Thus may we abide in great equanimity, unruffled by attachment and aversion and with equal love for all beings.
(Source: Hookham, Lama Shenpen. There’s More to Dying than Death. Windhorse Publications Ltd. Kindle Edition.)
(e) Another expression of the Four Immeasurables (or Four Boundless Emotions) is:
May all beings have happiness and its causes.
May all beings be free from suffering and its causes.
May all beings know pure joy untouched by suffering.
May all beings live in peace untroubled by anger or clinging.
(Source: Neale, Miles. Gradual Awakening. Sounds True. Kindle Edition.)
(6) Being Prepared for Death
(a) Have I made all the practical preparations for before my death approaches?
(b) Have I taken care of the practical preparations for after my death?
(c) As far as spiritual preparation, have I given thought as to what to do for myself before I die?
(d) As far as spiritual preparation, am I prepared for what to do for myself as I die?
(e) As far as spiritual preparation, have I given thought for what to do for myself after I die?
(7) Fulfilling Responsible Stewardship
(a) Do I have an up-to-date will in place?
(b) Have I streamlined and simplified my possessions?
(c) Have I organized my living space for neatness and simplicity?
(d) Have I simplified my expectations, activities (including social involvements and relationships), and pace of life?
(e) Having downscaled and decluttered my life, am I able to now devote more time toward lasting, spiritual pursuits – in preparation for peacefully leaving this life?
(8) Embarking on a Spiritual Path
(a) Have I given thought to the value of a spiritual path – whereby “suffering, its causes, their cessation and the path must in turn be understood, eliminated, realized and relied upon” (Maitreya, Sublime Continuum, VI, 55)
(b) Do I grasp the parallel thought to the one above: “Illness must be understood, its causes eliminated, well-being must be attained, and medicine taken” (Maitreya, Sublime Continuum, VI, 55).
(c) Do I see the wisdom of listening and hearing?
(d) Do I understand the wisdom of contemplation and reflection?
(e) Do I appreciate wisdom of meditation and application.