Death, the First Taboo

Posted: June 4, 2010 / in: Spirituality / 8 comments

Every culture has its own Taboo subjects; we will start with one of the most universal taboos: “Death”.
There was an excellent comment on this blog that inspired this new section that I will call taboo subjects. And since the first taboo that was approached was death, this will be our first taboo to start with.

You are all invited to comment on each taboo that will include a presentation (just as an appetizer) and then we will debate about it with all the arguments and experiences available.

This section is a challenging one and I hope that those who feel provoked by some of the subjects will find strength to click away from this page or to share their point of view in a decent way.

The first taboo: Death
I will  start with the comment about this subject from mirabilis_mundi:

“There are some subjects that we are alienated from, as a culture. Alienated in the sense that they are avoided tendentiously. One of them is death. The presence of death is illusory covered, we are mesmerized into believing in eternal youth. So we have built a net of images that are continuously projected on ourselves, which we unconsciously ingurgitate, daily: media image is of a youth that is more youthful from decade to decade. We live in a society of uplifting, wrinkle decreasing creams. Even the more or less spiritually orientated choices of life have suffer from this blinding infusion and we are facing the Enlightenment rush or How to avoid death spiritual agendas.

Death-and-RiskWhy are we running away from death? It is the most inevitable thing that will happen to us in our life. The human society use to have rits and tales about death. Today, still unexplained fully from the scientific point of view, this part of life is covered and we are taught to postpone facing it. What it will happen if people’s awareness would be turned towards becoming consciousness that we are approaching death with every minute we live? Would our life become more meaningful? Would we stop chasing material fortunes, be less individualistic, care more for the loved ones, love more, be present more, here and now? Would we stop running blindly to work and back, and kids, and loans for cars and houses, and stress and high blood pressure, and divorces, and loneliness? Would we be able to stop the circle moving? Would the awareness of the inevitably approching death give more meaning to the moments when we truly love, when we truly see, when we touch the face of the ones we love – the child we gave birth to, the mother elder now, the friend, the lover? What would we do differently? How would we build our lives as a individual, as a family, as a community, as a society? What would be our priorities, our values?

The life we live is our power and strength, our force of transformation due to the mystic hiatus called death. And here stands the whole magic: we become eternal not by running away from death, or denying its inevitability but by passing through it while still alive.”

Many Fear Death Because They Fear Life

Moreover we have to become aware of the fact that surviving our life is not the same as living our life. Many fear death because they also fear life. And in this way the only life strategy they have is to survive it. However, this keeps them away from living life and enjoying its amazing lessons. What can be more stupid than trying to get away from the most amazing experience that we are given on this planet: our own life. I know that some pretend they are living their life just because they are doing all kinds of things (of which some of them are meaningless or sometimes even stupid), or they are doing anything that crosses their mind. But this is just another way to survive; it is a survival kit that has an anti-depression (anti-suicide) program based on entertainment attached to it.

Remembering About Death Is Not Possible Without Remembering About Life
..They are the two faces of the existence.

This is why the ancient “memento mori” is at the same time “memento vivere“ as an ultimate act of awareness. He who is not aware of Death will also not be aware that he is alive. Even if it seems simple, by attentively looking around you you will notice a lot of people who are more like robots, their life being replaced with a lot of schemes that keep the machine running on auto-pilot. Yet we are constantly reminded about life and death by the problems that we face in our everyday life, when we are not attentive to them and they take us by surprise. When we are awakened and attentive to our life (and to our death 🙂 ) then the problems lose their scary appearance and simply become phenomena which we detachedly contemplate and lessons from which we learn.

Love As A Teacher

Death becomes a taboo not because it is so scary (for there is no reason for this), but because nowadays people have become so attached to life that they don’t dare to live it! And not living enough will increase the anxiety when facing Death. The idea “the more you save the more you have” (an idea that seems to be suggested to us by all the real life situations – see the current crisis that leads many to this conclusion) makes many people unconsciously try to save life for later. It has somehow become the instinct of citizens throughout the world today to live life on ‘economic mode’ in order to save for later. Yet something tells us deep inside that this is not according to the fundamental experiences that makes us human beings. For instance, love teaches us another lesson: in love the more you give the more you have!

Everyone has experienced this at least once and could intuitively understand this principle. We can see from this perspective why the first unconsciously accepted principle in life (“the more you save the more you have”) is going against Life itself and somehow makes us avoid (save) our life and thus fear Death that in a way becomes inevitable.

How often do we deny the reality as it is because it is not according to our expectations, projections, concepts? Then we try to save it for later, putting everything on auto-pilot and go to sleep in a kind of protective psycho-mental-hibernation until life (with all its disappointments and unpredictability) is gone and we are ready for departure. But instead of being ready for departure we feel that something is wrong and we’ve missed something: Life! And then again, the phenomenon of Death appears to be a scary, premature, unwanted, unnecessary, brutal end to Life. If we had lived with full intensity all this time… Death would have shown us a different face 🙂

A Life Lived With Intensity Means Taking Risks

deathIndeed intensity in life means a lot of risks, and today we are not so good at taking risks. We try desperately to eliminate spontaneity and risks from our life because they seem to threaten our “safe” journey through life. But upon closer inspection we can see that the only one who is safe in this way is the ego – the self-delusional system that we have created in order to successfully ignore Reality as it is and to live in this self- induced reality that is as perfect as our imagination can deliver. The one who dares to laugh a lot will be also be exposed to cry a lot. The one who risks loving a lot will also risk suffering when Love is not correctly understood. And ultimately the one who dares to live a lot will also face death a lot, almost everywhere! (see here the magical power to dare video and comments). But these days we try to become premature adults (no wonder so many of us suffer from all kinds of premature… something) and aim to finish school as early as possible in order to retire for the rest of our lives in the peace of a predictable time, career, love, family and destiny.

Life, A Lesson in Itself

However, what we forget is that life itself is a lesson too and the more we want to finish the lessons and the school, Do You Dare to Live?

When was the last time you dared to challenge your daily existence with something unexpected, amazing, spontaneous? How many times did you dare to investigate a rumor or an unusual fact on your own despite the warnings about “conspiracy theory” or “political incorrectness” or “insufficient scientific data” and other such warnings that are only destined for the grown up kids to behave in the way they are supposed to? How many times have you been forming your judgments purely on your heart and not on what TV says or on what other people tell you? How many times did you dare to challenge the “consensus reality” lately, and to take a point of view that is radically different from others despite the constant warning of: “different is bad because it is where terrorism is born”. How many times did you dare to love without limits lately and without the “security belt” of coolness even after the first excitement had left your relationship? How many times did you look into the things you miss deep inside your heart and make a plan to go there and to start to act on that plan? How many times did you succeed to comply with an inner discipline, risking becoming different through your inner transformation of weakness instead of remaining in line with the others through the resemblance of mediocrity? How many times did you let yourself be uplifted by a pep-talk or by a simple movie and then start to seriously apply what you have learned there? Why almost none of these aspects are known by most of the people today? after all they are aspects of life but we treat them in the same way we treat Death: with the same paralyzing fear. It’s no wonder that most people today are happy just surviving life, even in conditions of well-being that no other generations have enjoyed in their lifetime!

And on top of this, we tend to ignore the simple fact that a predictable life – which we strive so much to obtain – gives us an unbearable feeling about the unpredictability of Death. An intensive and spontaneous life (unpredictable) will include Death as a part of it, a turning point in the journey through this amazing lesson.

Compare the above mentioned ideas with the modern concept of “being cool”! This concept comes as an adaptation to the growing anxiety that the spontaneity of life creates in us when we try to completely control and predict it. Becoming cool means in fact to become numb to any emotions or feelings, it is a caricatural description of the concept of detachment to be found in every spiritual tradition. The more cool we are the more immature we remain and we tend to preserve the child locked inside as a last frontier of the real life. And for this we put on these hilariously dramatic masks of serious adults who are denying any part of their childhood. As an opposition to this we can also sometimes see – especially among New Age followers – infantile adults, those who have bodies of grown ups but behave with the same infantilism – but not with the same innocence – as children. Both aspects are the tragic reaction to the simple and natural process of evolving and learning that is not limited to anything but Death (and then only as a break to change the manuals).

The Love Principle

Living our life according to the second principle (the more you give the more you have!), which I call the love principle, brings us closer to Life itself and then Death appears only to be a part of Life, the transformational part that is always there to support all the updates. The more (intensively) we live the more life we have would be the principle that blows away the taboo of death, placing death in its natural place in our life.

Now the floor is open for debate, and sharing experiences of life and death, so act!

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Comments (8)

  1. sakti says:

    Thank you for this opening into remembering – and yes also confronting what seems so “easy to forget” Death – even though this is so paradoxical cause it is the neverseizing presence and incapsuled in every moment of existing. How interesting why we can forget? It is amazing to try to grasp how this polarity and life and death can be: that truly when i become more aware, of this present moment i at the same time feel more alive and more present the fragility of anything static becomes so obvious. Also: isnt it that detachment never appears by any distance but only through complete awareness? Is it possible to become truly detached of death? Will this happen when we awaken the soul completely or is it only liberated beings that truly realised to die while still living? To be detached one must embrace something fully or go through an experience fully in order to be able to leave it completely isn´t it?
    Is the way to die in every moment the gate of awareness only? how can i realise this presence in a society with much noise and superficiality and free myself from taboos? For me i think yoga will be the way. to learn to stop my mind since isn´t it the mind that is bound and that is containing the taboos? or can the heart be limited still if freed from the mind? I feel it cannot be..
    I hope to hear some more ideas upon this subject.
    With much love

  2. admin admin says:

    @ sakti
    it seems that this taboo story was silencing everyone around, even the ones that were usually very active … maybe it was death 😉

  3. June says:

    Ever since I was a child I have been looking for signs that the physical world we live in is not the only reality. Back then I looked for secret passages inside mirrors and all sorts of unexpected events which could prove that the world was vaster and more complex. I am still searching for such evidence..
    Meanwhile, I believe that death opens the gate towards deeper layers of reality.
    Death gives me a deep feeling of mystery, much greater than fear, but also a strong feeling of freedom and happiness. When I was younger I used to think that when you die you meet God. Now I believe that it is part of a process of transformation and evolution just as life is, so it will not necessarily bring the revelation of God but it will take us one step further.
    It is also interesting to consider that we define death as the death of the physical body. Maybe it is because we consider life to be the life of the physical body.
    Still, I believe that death is more – it is the death of time, death of dreams, death of fears, death of relationships, death of limitations, death of things we thought we knew, death of aspirations, death of habits, death of connections, death of emotions and feelings, death of thoughts, death of light, death of darkness, death of every breath, death of every heartbeat. Death is with us at all times. It does not happen at the end of life but during life, together with life. But we only seem to notice it when we miss our most treasured possession – our physical body.
    Therefore I believe that when we learn to see death in the moments of our daily life we become able to embrace it and to recognize it as the other side of life.

  4. carbon12 says:

    Man, this post was one of the reasons i STOPPED WATCHING THE WORLD CUP! It is so painfully right that gave me a hard time to finish it at the first attempt. I was angry on you admin and wanted to give up reading here … then i realized that in fact this was the point: to give some thought provoking stuff that will help the reader vomit their undigested life, thus becoming lighter and eventually freer. This was very well working on me. But you are right also that there are few fellows that are ready to accept such a challenge and the small number of comments to such a powerful subject stand as a proof of this situation.
    Every time i was trying to think about death i use to have a slight nausea and morbid imagery came into my mind. This was the reason why death for me was always a taboo but i wasn’t aware about it. Only recently some events in my life showed that i am mortal (some revelation huh?) and that was giving me a hard time to ignore it. This article and this approach on the subject gave me even harder time but in a strange way it did help in the same time to reach deep inside and see what is going on there. For the moment i found out that the nausea and the uncomfortable sensation when thinking of death came from my fear of pain and unknown. And this comes from a superficial way of dealing with the daily problems that makes me wanting to control them by force…. from there i will have a problem with everything that is unknown and uncontrolled. Then i realized that i am paralyzed by the fear of not being rejected from the society or the “tribe” that i am part of. And for this i am trying – in a disgusting way! – to look cool and nice with everyone, to imitate the trend and be like everyone else. And strange enough, in the same time i am desperately trying to be original and different so that i have personality (even if i am afraid of being too different because different = strange -> out of the “tribe”). WTF is this!? What kind of personality one can have starting from such a mess in basic desires? The situation got worse when i noticed that everyone around is practically the same, with slight variations. This remind me of the dog that was licking his balls and got confused by this question: “What am i doing here, giving or receiving?”
    And i am still digging into this taboo!
    Right! Here i am making confessions on line. You can delete this post if it is too obscene 🙂
    No more peace in the valley …

  5. Sakti says:


    Dear June i really appreciate your way of describing death and the perspectives it brings. i think what you write is very true and to realise it and conquer any illusionary fear of it is a great attainment!

  6. Lars says:

    How dead became that alienated in our society? Personally i was fortunate to be next to more dying persons.. It became to me a very sacred, even priviliged moment, and i saw with all of them that they all – even when in a physical pain, in the end left with a great light on their face just before the last breath.. No doubt death is a big experience – but not to be denied or regarded with terror!

  7. Cristian says:

    Here is a link to a very beautiful story of a near-death experience.

  8. Isobel says:

    I was just walking down the busy high street where i live, there was a big traffic jam, everyone trying to get home hot and bothered, i walked past an estate agent and turned my head glancing inside, i saw a variety of properties for sale and rent at extortionate rates… I stopped frozen on the street: the cars, the mortgages, the people living in their own separate boxes… i had an image that from the moment we are born until the moment we die, there is a structure dictating our lives, we go to school, where we are taught a lot of dry things (little of that serves us a real purpose when we are in the world) but we are not taught the essentials; how to love, how to build relationships, how to serve the others, how to breathe properly, how to make love properly, how to take care of our bodies, face our fears, be healthy and live happy full lives. Honestly 15 years of education got me a reasonable job, but it no way prepared me for ‘life’, it may well be said that ‘life is the best teacher’, but imagine how different the world would look if education also covered the most profound and beautiful aspects of being a ‘human being’, and the amazing planet that supports our existence, imagine how it would be if we were given the tools for self- discovery to understand ‘who we are’ and what ‘is our mission’. Sadly most of us go through our lives in our own little boxes fighting for survival, after school we have to make our way, further study, ultimately get a job, a spouse, a mortgage, kids, insurance policies, and all the stuff that goes with being an adult… In our daily life we rush through each day simply to get to the end of it intact, the small pleasures making hiatuses in the rat race of modern day living… and because there is so much noise internally and externally many people die without ever hearing the voice of their own heart, without knowing true happiness, true love and why they came here!
    I carried on my walk with a feeling of immense compassion and love for the others… and in the same time overwhelming gratitude for the times i am able to hear the voice of my heart.

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