Understanding a Mindful Reaction to the Ending of Life
Perhaps unexpectedly a reaction to the diagnosis of a terminal illness is not always one of despair and fear. It is possible to feel liberated from the concerns of being a social and interactive human being. There can be a sense of peace, of complete enjoyment in the moment, with no struggle to find meaning or a need to share.
Mindfulness is a term used to describe being in 'the moment', or the in 'the here and now'. It is a state reached through an ability to switch off worries and concerns, so that the mind concentrates on experience as it happens. The focus can then turn towards the traditional five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. It is about an individual being 'present' in relation to the immediate environment and becoming aware of the thoughts brought in by what is seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted.
With the knowledge that life is coming to an end there can be a sense of the lifting of care. Ironically, perhaps, a more Mindful state of being can sometimes be noticed in people who have chosen to take their own life in reaction to unbearable emotional burdens. As they reach the decision that there is a way out from their problems, life can take on a different hue and the problems cease to be an issue. They feel that the struggle is over and may seem 'better' to their friends and family who have felt them to be beyond reach through depression.
One of the most difficult emotions a bereaved person has to deal with is that of guilt and a sense that they could have done more to alleviate suffering, not only physical, but emotional. In understanding that the person who has died might have been relieved of their burdens before death might help with the thought that they could have been 'saved', or that only in death itself comes the relief of suffering. Perhaps Mindfulness is the last gift which life and being alive can bestow and the person about to die can become more truly alive than ever before!
A recent quote from someone with a diagnosis of terminal illness reads : “we went to this temple in [Japan] and the scene behind the mountains was sublime. A light snow was falling and it was utterly beautiful. Normally, I'd be trying to take this in as a memory. But I thought there's no point, so I was just in that moment completely and it felt fantastic”.
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